Shaw Local News Network has interviewed newly elected officials in recent weeks to highlight their plans for cities, school districts and other units of government. As some are easing into their new roles, others are making sweeping changes.
Newly elected Lakewood Village President Dave Stavropoulos already replaced the chief administrative officer, police chief, as well as moved new people into roles of village clerk and treasurer and hired a new law firm.
Spring Valley’s new Mayor Melanie Malooley-Thompson laid out some lofty goals for the Bureau County city of about 5,200 residents.
Among plans to improve infrastructure and formulate an aggressive plan for economic development, Malooley-Thompson’s first priority is more philosophical in nature.
“My No. 1 goal is to unite the community by showing them we will listen and care about the future of Spring Valley.”
Weighing in after the Lakewood appointments, Stavropoulos said, “I think that the village was really looking for change. I think that was evident in the vote count. The vote was just as much a vote for me as it was a vote for change. And so I think in the spirit of working with the village and recognizing that, I really had to make the change across the board.”
Regardless of the pace at which they’re moving, change is likely with new faces. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In our role of covering your communities, we believe it’s important to share these visions and actions to educate readers on how their local governments function. And as this change of guard happens, we’d like to remind those elected – both new and seasoned – that they work for the public.
And we have some advice.
First, and most importantly, listen. This sounds like a no-brainer. It’s not. And in today’s world, the conversation isn’t just happening at board meetings. Constituents won’t necessarily call you at home to discuss an issue. Conversation is happening everywhere – on social media, letters to the editor, grocery stores. Keep your ears and eyes open. Even if the message is brewing with anger, try to get to the root of what someone is concerned about, whether it’s potholes, building codes or taxes. Take the time to explain things to residents, whether it’s basic functions of government or why you voted the way you did on a certain matter.
Exercise transparency. We’re not just referring to FOIA and releasing documents, but talking openly about issues that may be controversial. You should want your constituents to be in the know and know where you stand.
And lastly, make true on your campaign promises. People may have voted for you because of a promise to weed out corruption or bring more community events to town. This is where constituents and your local newspaper come into play – hold your public officials to those promises.
For those who ran and lost, you still have an opportunity to initiate change or lend a voice and helping hand. We often see candidates suddenly showing up to local events and meetings during campaign season, only to disappear after losing an election. Stay involved.
Unfortunately, voter turnout in local elections is notoriously low. These elections tend to not have the glitz of a presidential election, but as we’ve stated before, these are the people who directly affect your quality of life, and wallet.
Elected officials cannot be successful without a connection to their constituents. An engaged community has a better chance of improving the quality of life for everyone.