Future depends on who we elect

Published 12:36 am Sunday, February 20, 2011

A little more than one week remains before the qualifying deadline for candidates to get on the ballot for this year’s Adams County elections.

Before deadline passes, it’s a good time for voters to pause and consider just what qualities they want in their representatives. My thoughts include the following:

Honesty and integrity

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Few if any candidates would ever admit to lacking these two core characteristics, but figuring out who has them is half the battle.

Honesty is a given. No one wants a dishonest person with his hands on public policy or, heaven forbid, funds.

The same can be said for integrity. Both come more from a person’s reputation and history than what they’ll profess to you. We all like to think of ourselves as saints, don’t we? But most of us know we’re far from it.

Listen more, talk less

On my list of candidate wants is one that’s fairly easy to spot, but it’s often overlooked — the ability and willingness to listen.

Listening is critical for a leader of any type, but especially for a public official.

We ask much from our elected officials, and most of them come to the office without a complete knowledge of everything they need to know from day one.

How many times, however, have we elected candidates that are just the opposite? When we elect people who like to hear their own voices or see themselves on TV, we often later realize the person cares more about their own image than listening to and respecting the ideas of others.

Community, not votes

Another qualification should be possessing the ability to put personal agendas aside in order to make decisions based on what is best for the community as a whole, not just a select few.

This one can be more difficult to judge, particularly with challengers who have little “public” record.

But then again, shouldn’t people who are truly interested in bettering the community have found a way to get involved without being elected? The best candidates do. Beware candidates that have virtually no community track record.

Living with “brights” on

Forward thinkers who make excellent leaders are people who enjoy the moment, but don’t dwell on it. They respect the past for what it can teach us, but they don’t want to constantly return to it.

Forward thinkers have their internal headlights on “high beam” so they’re always focused on what’s just down the road.

If we had leaders doing that during the last eight to 12 years, our community would have had a plan for how to overcome the huge job losses sustained by the exodus of industry.

Instead we had leaders who seemed to bicker constantly and quibble over seemingly trivial issues of the moment, rather than looking ahead.

Voters need to learn from our mistakes. How we vote can and does shape our future. We’ve voted in folks who stood by as industry after industry left town with virtually no effort made toward stopping it. That’s our fault.

Positive outlook

In the past, it’s been popular to vote for candidates who focus on the negatives.

Some folks don’t just wake up on the wrong side of the bed occasionally; they live there. Putting those people into public office is a disaster.

Leaders must be positive at their core. No one wants to follow a general into battle that constantly reminds his troops of all the dangers they face and the likelihood they may not make it. Troops — and voters — want positive leadership.

Excellent candidates must possess not only a love for our community, but a true belief that it can — and will — improve in the future.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.