The political season has swallowed the current landscape of our lives and will be a main source of conversation, debate, and even stress for months to come.
I am not talking about parties today, but rather politics. That process that is ideally supposed to winnow the wheat from the chaff and give us the best leaders possible at any given time.
I recently considered running for what is considered a bipartisan, down near the bottom of the ballot, elected position. It was to represent and work hard for a local community college that I personally attended, support, and feel strongly positive about.
I am not a politician.
I am an experienced public speaker, somewhat telegenic (or at least comfortable on camera), and have made many friends and acquaintances in my community through nonprofit work and volunteering.
But my real value to this particular position would be high integrity and a fairly deep well of experience in the often mind-numbing skill of governance. That isn’t a term many people might know or understand, but it boils down to setting policy and guiding an institution to fulfill its mission. It requires a lot of reading, a lot of listening to the people who make up that institution, and arguably, most importantly it requires that you understand the vision of the organization and see issues and choices through that lens…while articulating your perspective in a way that brings collaboration rather than discord. You may be helping to steer a large and important ship, and if integrity is not a part of your approach, things can get out of balance.
Sound simple? It is anything but, and any of you who have been on a Board of Directors, whether highly functioning, dysfunctional, or somewhere in the middle will agree.
So, back to politics.
This year I dipped my toe in the water. I interviewed people presently on the Board, the President of the college, the Executive Director of the Foundation that supports the college, and then I spoke with political campaign people.
Each of the people involved in the college said that they thought the biggest needs of the Board included people of high integrity, passion, and the ability to work together. I thought, “I can do that.”
Usually, a campaign like this would not cost too much or require Herculean feats of fundraising and stumping, but this year seemed different. This year many people were interested in these seats that are unpaid, relatively unsung, and usually not compelling, except to those who are passionate about education and governance. This year, the price of running and having a chance at success rose and rose, both in money and energy as new candidates emerged daily.
Finally, I had to make a hard choice. I had not formally declared yet, and so I could choose not to run with few repercussions. I was not locked in by investment or others’ expectations and so I thought, prayed, talked with a few more people…and withdrew.
My prayers are that the people who eventually fill the seats of nearly half of this Board end up being more about the work and less about the politics, but time will tell.