In the wake of the Feb. 14 city elections, Tahlequah residents now have two new government officials to serve them. And now, more than ever, voters should expect a stellar performance from their chosen leaders.
Dower Combs ousted incumbent Charles Carroll for the Ward 2 City Council seat, and DeAnna Hammons defeated Blake Turner to replace incumbent Deb Corn, who opted not to run again. Combs has some experience in the public sector, having served on a local school board. Hammons is a political newcomer, but is no stranger to city business; her husband, Ray, has been the fire chief for years.
The public should give these folks, and those who won the various school board elections around the area, a warm welcome and a positive attitude about the benefits they've promised to bring to their respective jobs. It's the least voters can do; once again, turnout was low, as it typically is for local elections.
You would think the results of the most recent U.S. presidential election might have washed off some of the voter apathy that pervades the public. But that doesn't seem to be the case. While November's turnout in Cherokee County was a not-too-shabby 67 percent, the overall turnout here a week ago Tuesday was less than 7 percent. That's dismal in anyone's book.
It's not for lack of trying. Election Board Secretary Rusty Clark talked to the Daily Press and other entities many times about the statistics, the regulations, the dates and the deadlines. Candidates for the city offices appeared in various forums, which were reported in the Daily Press and elsewhere. Combs and Hammons will certainly have a considerable effect on municipal government in the years to come, and the same can be said for school board members.
Why don't voters care enough to show up at the polls? Many of those who stayed home have children in the respective school districts; surely they must realize the critical role the board play in their children's education. As far as Tahlequah, it has a very engaged and ambitious mayor in Jason Nichols, but he needs an active and informed council to make progress. If local residents want this community to grow, it would behoove them to take an active part in their own governance.
Clark made this comment about the low turnout: "It says a lot when people don't get out and vote for local candidates and issues that have a direct local impact on them."
He's spot-on. It's often said that voters get the representation they deserve. That can be taken as a positive or a negative, but either way, we need to become more politically active at every level. Our future depends on it.