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.
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.
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.