Running for Office again!

Dear Neighbors:

While elections may be popularity contests, governing is about doing the hard work required, every day, that our community demands and deserves. To me, part of my job is to be available- that’s why I answer your questions on Facebook, NextDoor Now, email, phone, at the grocery, and even running into you while we’re at the park. I’ll do what I can to help and get you the answers you need- because that’s what everyone should do for their friends and neighbors.

In our current contentious political environment, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important- living in a community that cares about each other, in good times and in bad, and rallies to make sure that people affected by tragedy know their neighbors care and want to help.  That’s not a democratic, republican or independent thing- it’s a human thing. I look at the role of Supervisor as one where I can help make sure our roads, bridges and even digital infrastructure is in good repair; where we can foster events like the Holiday Village Market to bring people together and celebrate our community while supporting local artisans and business people; and where we can deal with thorny issues like regionalism and cooperation in fire and safety, and come to a conclusion where everyone wins.

Servant Leadership. Doing what’s best, even if it’s not in your own self- interest. Helping whenever and wherever you can. It’s simple, straightforward, and it’s what I do every day.

Thanks for being a neighbor here in our wonderful, diverse community.You can read more about me, my accomplishments, and the race for Township Supervisor by clicking the button below.

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Running for Office

I am a local Township Supervisor in Pennsylvania, running for re-election this year. Supervisor is a part-time position, and comes with a statutory stipend of $2,500.00 a year. that equates to about $5.20 or less an hour of meeting time, and other work we put in to help guide the Township. The real day to day job is done by professional staff who have (mostly) normal work hours except for after hours meetings and being on call during an emergency, salaries, benefits- and these folks do the day to day jobs necessary to keep the Government running.

I love this job, as I am often in a position to help people figure out problems, point them in the right direction if we can’t help, and otherwise work to help make good decisions for the long-term benefit of our community.

I’ve taken on responsibilities that are not my “roll” per se- helping to develop a map of people having a phorid fly pest problem, and coordinating with researchers at Penn State to get help to the residents; Working on our digital infrastructure needs and getting a study- with grant funding to boot- to make sure we know where to prioritize improvements and fix connectivity gaps throughout Southern Chester County. I’ve looked up stats every week and helped people stay on top of COVID data throughout our community for over 18 months now. I’ve helped some people looking to get a little Foof Pantry program started. There’s more, of course, like starting the Holiday Village to help support economic development, improving our website, streaming meetings, adding email communication, and the like.

I hope if I leave any lasting impression on the Township, it’s one of how kindness and caring matter. And how the more you know, the more you can participate and make a difference in your community.

Does it matter?

I don’t know if I will win or lose tomorrow, but our local politics have taken a nasty turn recently, with several people making political arguments personal, and hanging me with years of problems I have worked hard to solve. But in their book, none of the good offsets these long term problems that I did not yet solve- or create- to be honest.

I can’t change any of that, of course.

In Government, in particular, things never move fast enough, and there is never enough money – and no one wants to pay more taxes. As a result, people put off making hard decisions and building up necessary funds to pay for long-term expenses- no one wants a tax increase, especially if it’s for a long-term, not near-term issue.

We see this problem statewide, nationally- at every level. Making sure we have adequate funding to keep our roads and bridges in good repair; making sure we have the Emergency services, parks, transportation, schools, and other resources that everyone wants- not as many people seem eager to pay for them. And when expenses are going up in every area of our lives, taxes seem to be the area people resent the most.

Goals

When I ran for office, one of my goals was for people to better understand how their money was being spent, and learned, at least a little, that their tax money was an investment in the future of their community.

I’ve certainly brought the “Mom” factor to the equation, for better or worse. People often reach out to me on all sorts of channels- email, personal email, text, phone, Facebook messenger and more- to ask questions, complain, offer help- you name it. Accessibility to your public officials and feeling like they are friends and neighbors is important to me- and I am not sure the same thing can be said for my opponent.

Changes

The face may change on our Township, and while I hope many of the things I started will continue, I worry many of them won’t have a champion in the same way if I am gone. That’s not to over-inflate my importance nor play down the importance of others- Government is a team sport to be sure. But caring matters. And when people in positions of power care more about themselves and less about everyone else- or more about power in general- we are all the worse for it.

I hope what I’ve worked hard to accomplish matters. It matters to me, that’s for sure.

When it gets nasty…

I can also say that I have seen a particularly nasty side of politics, and feel the weight of it this year. I worry people who do care about their communities will look at this kind of thing and simply say- I don’t want to be part of that crap- count me out. But if that’s true, then all we are doing is chasing the people who do care and are kind out of a system that desperately needs more kindness, not less.

I’ve come to feel that the race tomorrow is as much about whether facing the worst- [someone stole money from our Township and we have had to work hard to see justice done and recover the funds- not an easy task to be sure]- and doing the job to get it fixed is enough. Sure, I wish I knew there was fraud going on before I even ran for office, and I wish we found it sooner. But I am being saddled with the full weight of something going on years before I got there, and like many things in life, it’s not entirely fair.

I understand everyone’s disappointment- I am disappointed too. I also feel I was sold a bill of goods- everything here is perfect! – that turned out not to be true. I stepped up and dealt with it, rather than resign and walk away, which would have been the easy thing to do.

Even as I write this, I wonder whether walking away was really the right thing to do. Should I have bothered to run for re-election? There are important things I want to do and help with- but is it time for someone else to do them?

I feel like the other side is trying to make me feel humiliated or embarrassed about something that was ongoing long before I ever came along- and tried to make better. And then trying to tell me I somehow am taking too much credit or didn’t work hard enough to fix it, which I know is bullshit.

I’m mad and sad and frustrated, all at the same time.

Voters will decide

The decision about what kind of community they want is in the hands of the voters. I hope they choose well, whether it’s me or someone else.

I know I have worked hard and done a great job, and I don’t know if it will be enough.

Life will go on. Win or lose.

But I know there are some things I will never forget. Some people will do or say anything- and tell you later when you tell them they aren’t being truthful- they responded “well, it COULD be true”- as a way to justify their actions. These folks will do or say anything and not let facts or the truth get in their way. Whatever spin or half-truth is good enough- screw nuance. And these are the types of people who are just not good fiduciaries- they will always put themselves first- and that’s not who I want running my government at any level.

Yeah, but you knew what you were getting into….

My husband looks at me when I express these feelings and asks me what did I expect getting involved in politics? We all know it’s a dirty business with awful people. But I have hoped for so much more, and to be an example of what it could be to others. And now I have a list of names of who some of these “will do anything” people are, facts be damned. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.

I’m severely disappointed to learn this about some people I’ve known, and not as surprised as I should be about others.

In the end, we all know that our actions have consequences, and karma is a bitch. That goes for me and everyone on this planet. I just hope that trying to do the right thing even when it’s hard counts for something.

I’ll find out this week, to be sure. Numerically, across my community- something that can only happen when you run for office.

Let’s see what we learn.

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Dementia

My mother-in-law has dementia. She had been pretty good at hiding her slow cognitive decline for a long time, but gradually, not even those of us who would have preferred to be in denial could avoid the truth. We needed to move Nancy out of her home and into a community where she could receive care and help with things like remembering her medications.

I went down three years ago, at about this time of the year, to help my sister-in-law make the move and set up Nancy’s new apartment. We could bring some things- but not everything to her home. And there were a lot of things we needed to go through, deciding what needed to be saved, given to siblings, relatives, friends or simply donated or thrown out. Having been through that, cleaning out my dad’s home after he passed away, I had a little experience with it- and it’s never easy.

Nancy is now in a great community, but she will need to move into memory care soon. We can’t avoid the fact that she’s having more problems, and needs more supervision. It’s no longer that she can’t figure out how to watch TV or tell the difference between a show and commercials. It’s getting confused, getting lost, or forgetting what she’s doing. I think it can be scary for her, a lot of the time, and that’s the one thing I wish I could fix for her- make it so she isn’t scared or worried so much of the time.

I work with a senior living community for my “day job” in digital marketing, and I talk to residents who have had spouses, friends and parents who have had various forms of dementia. The stories are all similar. There is a sadness about gradually losing someone you love, while their body is still there. You get to see glimpses of them from time to time, the sense of humor, the smile, the recognition of voices, or stories- and that feels amazing. But there are times you watch them wander in the deep, dark woods of their mind, a vacant expression and a look of being lost in the middle of something like a meal, no longer sure of what they like and what they don’t, and not sure what happens next.

When we get the periodic calls that Nancy has had an incident and ends up going to the hospital or has a crisis that needs to be addressed, I feel badly that I can’t be there- she lives in Florida, close to my sister in law, and all we can do is be supportive on the phone, keep in touch, and wait for the next visit. I want to be close and help- to help Nancy as she helped me when the boys were born, coming to stay, or coming for visits and always being someone I could talk to, confide in, and ask questions. She loved all of her family unconditionally and with an acceptance of all your good points and warts- and loved them all.

I miss Nancy. She’s still here, and we can talk to her on the phone, but it’s not the same. It now feels like talking at her than with her, more and more. We look for her and rejoice when we see the real her, but those glimpses are getting farther between, and no one knows when her mind will finally just give up, I guess.

Dementia is a horrible, hard disease that is difficult for the whole family.

All I can say is never take your loved ones for granted if you can help it. They may be gone before you know it- even if they are still here. Dementia robs many people of years of joy with their family. But remember people with dementia still have feelings- they love you, and feel things deeply, even if what they say doesn’t make much sense. And if you can just go with them to the place they are every once on a while, you will get to see them again, and that is worth the trip.

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Reflection

2020 has been a crazy year. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down much, either.

The pandemic has given me time to reflect about what’s important, and what I believe.

This morning, I was thinking about how I was raised with certain core values. Others I have come to over time, but here’s a list of what’s important to me.

  • When someone is working on something, offer to help.
  • Do the best that you can- don’t take short cuts.
  • That said, don’t make the job any harder for yourself or others than it has to be.
  • There is honor in hard work. People who labor and sweat for a living deserve our respect, and their hard physical labor makes much of our life possible.
  • Do your part. Contribute. Make a difference.
  • Do work you believe in.
  • Personal integrity is important. Don’t forget that. Remember to draw the line when people are asking you to do something that puts this at risk.
  • Be kind and generous with others. Trust people to keep their word.
  • This may mean you are taken advantage of by others from time to time. Regardless, you will always know you were doing the right thing, even if they weren’t, and you’ll be able to sleep better as a result.
  • Forgiveness is important. Try not to hold a grudge.
  • Most people are doing their best every day. Sometimes their best isn’t good enough. That disappoints everyone, but mostly those who are trying but face uphill battles that we may not appreciate.
  • We all need to experiment and try new things. Not everything will be successful. But over time, if you’re observant, you get much better at designing new things and have many more successes than failures by not repeating the same mistakes over and over. Learn and Iterate.
  • When someone is nasty, they are often acting out of pain or fear. It may be a reflection of what is going on with them, not you. Try to be kind to them, even when it’s hard.
  • Turning the other cheek doesn’t require you to stay there and take it repeatedly. Get out of the way. You learned the lesson- don’t be a masochist.
  • Stand up for yourself. You teach people how to treat you by what you put up with. Draw lines when needed.
  • Remember that the words you say can leave a mark, so be careful with them, especially when dishing out frustration and anger with your kids.
  • Remember to say you are sorry. Not “sorry, but..” with a rationalization, but a heartfelt sorry and apologize when you are in the wrong or have hurt someone.
  • Tell people what you need, and even what your failings or shortcomings are. We aren’t perfect, but if you tell people where your challenges are, they are almost always understanding and can work with you and help you where you struggle. Covering up or hiding the bad stuff doesn’t make it go away. It just makes it a nasty surprise later on, when everyone figures it out, anyway.
  • Know when to talk, and when to be silent. This isn’t easy, especially when you like to think aloud.
  • Sometimes you can’t tell people everything you want to. You have to learn how to keep a confidence without keeping secrets.
  • Find people you can trust. Keep the ones you can trust completely close and cherish them. That said, don’t give people the keys to the kingdom on first meeting- trust is something you earn over time. Dole it out in doses.
  • Love people in your life unconditionally. Be there when they need you,
  • It’s ok to help even when someone doesn’t know (yet) they need it. Sometimes they don’t want to ask, because they are worried they will look weak or will feel like a burden. Spend time with them and the simple things often help the most.
  • Trust your gut- and remember, when people show you who they are, believe it the first time. But don’t let the bad apples change you completely, even if their actions leave a mark. They made those choices, not you.
  • We get to choose how to respond to events in our lives. Make good choices as often as possible.
  • Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Try not to wallow. You may never forget the pain, but let it be instructive rather than destructive.
  • Look for the unexpected gifts life brings you. Even in the pandemic, I’ve learned to appreciate my kids for the adults they are becoming, and cherish the time together, even if it wasn’t what any of us chose or how we thought we would be spending this time in our lives. There is a gift even in this time of confusion and sorrow.
  • Most of all, do what you believe in. Put your money where your mouth is. Volunteer. Get involved. Work hard.
  • Show people you are determined and aren’t going to wait around and hope someone else solves the problem. If not you, who? As my friend Jennifer Iannolo says- No one is coming. You have to rely on yourself- but don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance when you need it.

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Notes from the Trenches

I was talking to a health care worker the other day, and they mentioned that they have several types of machines to do COVID tests in the hospital. The one machine they started with has been running pretty much 24 x 7 since March. It recently broke, and the hospital won’t get a replacement until September- maybe longer. The replacement machine they were supposed to get this month, to replace the broken one, is instead being deployed elsewhere where the need is more acute.

One thing we haven’t discussed enough is how long things like testing machines run before they break down? How long can the people in charge of testing go, before they need a break or need to be replaced?

The failure of putting the defense production act into effect early means there will still be supply chain problems of testing supplies, especially as other hot spots pop up. And thinking ahead, if the Fall brings another surge, will the testing equipment and supplies be in place at that time to meet the surge, or will it come down to choosing what location has the most acute need?

In the case of rationing, we know that will likely mean people will be undiagnosed, cases untraced, and more people will be infected. We’re starting to see PPE for medical professionals run low again-because when everyone gets sick at once, they can’t maintain supplies of both human and PPE capital required.

There are also worries about what will happen with the Fall flu season. In some ways, I am hoping that if we keep up good masking and social distancing habits, the flu season should be milder than ever before- people will be keeping their low-level infections to themselves, keep up better sanitation and hand-washing practices, and all of this can help prevent the flu as well as COVID 19.

But as we see cases spoking in communities like The Villages in Florida, it’s clear that our government’s failure of planning and ability to manage the worst will leave us in a precarious position- along with the rest of the world, might I add- for the forseeable future.

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