I lost my bid for re-election as a Township Supervisor.
Elections are like the world’s longest job interview. I knocked 946 doors, speaking with friends and neighbors; sending mail out to people about what I stood for, and what I believed. I chose not to attack my opponent, even though that seems like a given in most political races these days. Instead, I hoped that my years of service and hard work would be enough to earn the right to continue. It was not. And I totally understand. People weigh the good and the bad, and coming to a decision that a vote for me would encourage people to keep things as is, is a lot to ask from a community under these circumstances, regardless of degree of fault that could be implied.
In the end, the fact I was there when we discovered fraud that had been going on for over a decade was laid on my doorstep. We all deserved to be tossed out, many felt, and I certainly understand their disappointment- I was disappointed that I had not pressed harder on issues that may have helped discover the fraud earlier- when I suggested a forensic audit when I was newly elected, I was told we were having regular audits and it was expensive and unnecessary. Yet, that would have brought much of what was already going on to the surface sooner. But when someone is stealing from you, they don’t exactly make it easy to discover, and they actively discourage any and everyone from looking too closely.
Losing an election requires a bit of grieving, and Monday-morning quarterbacking- what would you have done differently? What didn’t you do? Is it personal? Is the other person really better? What went wrong?
This is an election where the factors at play pre-dated my tenure and I had little choice but to confront them head on when they came to light. By election day, the perpetrator was in jail; a majority of the money was already recovered and more was on the way, and we have a completely new professional team in place, who have been hard at work cleaning up the mess left behind by the former manager. The Township now has clear sight into its finances, and can make clear-eyed decisions about its future as well- rather than taking a view on accounting from before that can best be summed up by “I cannot be broke- I still have checks left” kind of thinking.
I started this post a week or so after election day. Now, in early February, I finally have a little more perspective on the before and after of having held public office.
Even on the local level, politics has become more contentious. There are people who are more interested in gumming up the running of government than in improving it, for purposes that aren’t always clear. This only causes local government to become even less efficient, and people get tangled in the weeds of spending more time justifying every step they make than actually doing the work that needs to be done.
I could not be any happier to be out of the daily scrum at this point.
I am remembering what happiness feels like. I have time to go to the gym, spend time with friends and family, and generally remember what joy is. This last weekend, we popped up to Boston and visited my son, met his friends, had dinner with another close friend, and the whole time, I kept saying to myself- this is what real life used to be like all the time! I missed so much in the misery of the last three years, and while I was in the middle of it, it was impossible to see the other side. Now, I can’t imagine how I got through it all in one piece.
So, thank you for everyone who supported me through this time. I learned how to ask for help, and got much of it when I needed it, even if it was just letting me talk to you and try to keep perspective when things were really bad.
And thank you to those who voted me out of office. You kept me from obsessing about things, many of which were beyond my control. You helped me see that sometimes, walking away from something is the best thing you can do – for yourself. And that it is ok to lose, and you can still end up being a bigger winner than you ever thought.
Those are hard won lessons, but ones I am very glad to have learned.