Every four years, the nation becomes embroiled with excitement and positive outlook as the campaigning for the election of the United States President gets into full swing. This year, unlike years past, many Americans do not feel the excitement and are anything but positive.
However, is our strong emphasis on “who is in the White House” misplaced? Maybe.
I was told a long time ago that a man’s success or failure is not dependent on who is or is not in the White House. Presidents, Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court affect our daily lives by their action and inaction. For example, military intervention, federal income tax rates, gun legislation, abortion laws, marriage laws, and immigration policy can have a significant effect on our liberties.
But, it is our local governments that we interact with on a daily basis
Your mayor, city council, board of education, county commissioners and others influence and vote on issues such as property taxes, local ordinances, zoning, economic growth (or decline), quality of schools, and many other aspects of living and working in a community.
Local officials also affect the quality of life in our communities. Projects such as green belts, green space, and parks beautify our cities. Police, fire, and EMS services keep us safe. Trash collection, water service, and sewer management keep our cities and counties clean.
One of the elected officials I spoke with in preparing this column was Carrollton City Councilman Gerald Byrd. He is a good example of what a local leader in the community should be. He works in our school system, volunteers his time toward community based projects, and leads the city by his service on the city council.
Gerald, first elected in 2001, is the longest serving public servant I met with. During our conversation, he summarized his view of what makes a good, quality leader; a person who represents the people on a local level must have the heart of a servant.
He also freely speaks about his faith. He believes that God wanted him to serve in the manner he has been for the past 15 years. He has followed God’s will for him.
During our interview, Gerald mentioned perhaps the most important difference between local and national service; accessibility.
“Your city council, commissioners, mayor, etc. are (or should be) accessible to the people. These part time public servants are working in our community. They may be your local doctor, school teacher, or farmer. Most of them interact with the public every day as part of their regular jobs.”
Gerald, and many others, take phone calls every day from constituents who have questions and/or concerns. This line of communication places the people in direct contact with those who serve.
While our national leaders and those being elected this year will steer the country in one direction, it is up to us and our local leaders to ensure that we have a high quality of living in our small town, suburbs, and cities across this nation.
I just hope that people like Gerald Byrd will continue to heed the call of service and move the cities and counties of west Georgia in the right direction.