One Woman’s View

Local elections matter

Contributing writer

Although it was important to get out to vote in the presidential election last fall, the elections coming up April 2 may have at least as great an impact on your daily lives. That is when cities and towns will elect mayors and city council members, and school districts will fill positions on local boards. In small towns and rural areas, these are often unsung heroes who struggle with policy decisions and budget issues that are important to citizens.

The men and women who shoulder these responsibilities do it for very little pay (or none) and sometimes very little credit or appreciation, but often with a full quota of blame if anything is amiss. Last month just seeing that the town streets were cleared of snow was a major undertaking. Then there is an endless stream of decisions regarding upkeep on streets, parks, and city buildings. What needs to be done, and how can the city pay for it? Sometimes this involves working on grant applications to try to find funding. Other times it is simply a matter of setting priorities and hoping residents will accept them.

I hope the other towns and cities in Marion County have been as fortunate as Tampa in finding dedicated people who are willing to give their time and effort to all of these necessary tasks. Tim Svoboda is doing an excellent job as mayor. During the years I have lived in the Tampa community, his predecessors, Jim Clemmer, Lloyd “Butch” Mueller and Paul Gooding, all left their mark on Tampa in their own individual ways. Since he did not have another “day job,” it often seemed Clemmer worked almost full-time at being Tampa’s mayor, and the community benefited from his efforts.

Our present council members are Paul Backhus, Wilbert Backhus, Russel Kerbs, David Rziha, and Ty Peterson. They also are generous with their time and effort and often go far beyond the call of duty in serving the community. Kerbs is a second generation council member; his father, Rueben Kerbs served for many years. I have seen too many council members come and go to give them all credit here, but their service has been of inestimable value to Tampa.

Most citizens do not hesitate to criticize the mayor or city council when they are not happy with a decision or feel something important is not being done. Certainly, it is all right to let them know your thoughts; they are our elected representatives, after all. However, such comments and criticism should be directed to them, preferably at a council meeting. Try not to interrupt their meals with phone calls or, worse still, air your views behind their backs.

Here is a novel concept — perhaps these hard-working, underpaid civil servants deserve a thank you or a pat on the back every now and then. My mother used to say you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Come out and vote in upcoming local elections. If you have visions and goals for your city or school, the next time elections come around, you might even consider running for one of these positions. The people who have willingly taken them on deserve our deepest respect and appreciation.

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