Fall harvest is in full swing on our central Kansas farm.
Despite the smattering of golden triangles fluttering in my yard, there’s still plenty of green leaves shimmering from the cottonwoods in my neighborhood. Normally by mid-October these giant trees have shed the majority of their leaves and the ones left have turned a pale yellow. Of course, aside from narrowly missing our first frost, there haven’t been too many days that have felt like fall recently.
Soon enough though, the cottonwoods and other trees will turn color and drop their leaves. I’ll have to get out the rake to clean up the yard and dust off the ladder to unclog gutters. Despite its late appearance, fall is coming and so is the work it brings.
This realization hit me recently because another fall tradition managed to sneak up on me: local elections. Somehow advance voting starts this week. It seems like the candidate filing deadline was just yesterday, but Election Day on Nov. 7 is almost here.
I know these local contests that determine who will serve on school boards and fill city council seats don’t garner the attention of state and federal elections. Despite the lack of a spotlight, these races are more important to your daily life than any other elected position.
Local officials decide what roads get built and fixed, how money is spent for schools, what types of buildings can be built (and where they can be built) and how to support local businesses and incentivize growth.
The reason most of these decisions are made at the local level is because you know your community better than anyone else. That’s why it’s vital need to pay attention to who is running and give your support to candidates who understand the challenges facing your community.
Voting in any election is a crucial part of upholding your civic duty, but casting a ballot is the easy part. Your primary job is to identify the candidates who can best represent your beliefs. Sometimes it’s not difficult to find those candidates, while in some races you have to do your research.
Either way, those who volunteer for these unpaid positions deserve our gratitude. They’re signing up for the thankless job of spending their evenings making decisions for the entire community, often with few people in the audience, which is why your civic duty doesn’t end on Election Day.
You don’t have to attend every meeting, but if you run into a school board member at the grocery story or see your city commissioner in church every Sunday, it’s good to have a short talk with them about what’s happening in your community. It’s OK to voice your opinion on current events and politely point out areas where you may disagree. You may not change their mind after one talk, but it might help them better understand your point of view.
Like raking leaves and cleaning gutters, there’s plenty of traditions to tend to as we enter the heart of fall. Be sure you add casting a ballot to the list sometime between now and Nov. 7. Afterall, regardless of who wins, they’ll surely be making decisions that affect you.
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