Is every election a popularity contest? Of course it is! Whether it’s the Student Council election or the president of the United States election, the goal of a candidate is to get more people to check his or her own box than the boxes of opponents.

So how do candidates go about getting popular? Hopefully, they emphasize their skills, knowledge, experience and vision. They make every effort to share that information with the voters so they can make informed and well-considered decisions. Sometimes, candidates will also point out significant differences between themselves and an opponent. This may also help the voter make an informed decision.

Does which candidate look prettiest and speak most fluently affect a voter’s choice? It can. But I like to believe most of those who take time to vote are looking a whole lot deeper. Voters want to influence the future and help establish priorities and goals. They do so by electing individuals who will represent them best.

When you think about it, candidates applying for a new position are doing the same thing. They are also working to convince the individual or committee making the decision that they have more skills, knowledge, experience and vision than the other applicants. They want to be the one selected.

So why in the world would the Charter Change Review Committee recommend direct hire rather than election for two city positions?

Elected individuals have a short time frame. A term in office is only four years long. Most people take up to a year to get up to speed with any new job. It’s difficult to have a long-term vision, or to start a long-term project, when you know you may not be the one taking it across the finish line. The elected office holder may have much less interest in developing staff with an eye to training a successor. Making a tough decision that may upset the status quo is a risky proposition for an elected person, so innovative ideas may die more easily.

Running for office is expensive, both in money and time. Many great candidates for a job may not be interested in investing both of those resources. After all, for a hired position, the candidate generally has expenses paid, only invests the time required for research and interviewing, and sometimes is eligible for a hiring bonus. That’s quite a swing in commitment required. Direct hire helps ensure that the best and brightest are applying. And while it’s unfortunate, sometimes individuals who are making significant investments of money and time end up “owing” those who support them financially more than those who vote for them.

So what happens when an incompetent person gets into office? As a voter, you have confidence that this individual can be voted out in four years. Of course, that’s only possible if another good candidate runs for office and if enough other voters agree with you.

If the office holder has been direct hired, as a voter, you look to the folks you elected as your voice to resolve the issue. With city government, that would be the city councilors. On a federal level, you’re calling your congressional representatives. If those folks can’t or won’t fix the issue, those are the people you replace.

In government, whether a position is elected or appointed, the voter always has power to influence change. The question before you in November is which will result in the best people in office working toward meeting the needs of our community.

Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.

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