Let’s take a moment to give thanks for everyone who has served in elected office on the local level. Love them or hate them, they’ve made the sacrifices.

They’ve gone to the meetings, lived through the public scrutiny, spent hours studying complex documents, and made hard decisions knowing the chances are good that 50 percent of their constituents will disagree.

Now it’s your turn. It’s a good time to consider what you have to give to your town or county in the role of an elected official.

Each election year, The Beacon staff eagerly anticipates our opportunity to do one of the most important things a local newspaper can do: inform our readers about local elections and encourage them to get out and vote.

But, too often, we see city council and city commission races dissolve, as candidates are re-elected without opposition. No one steps up to run against the incumbent. Or, only one candidate files to run for a vacant seat.

While these candidates elected without campaigns may be breathing deep sighs of relief, we’re regretting the lost opportunity to thoroughly test and vet candidates in vigorously contested races.

Even well-liked local officials should face the task of working for re-election.

DeLand, DeBary, Orange City, Deltona, Lake Helen and Pierson all have elections this year for seats on their city commissions and city councils. Volusia County needs County Council and School Board members. The West Volusia Hospital Authority and Soil & Water Conservation District will have elections, too.

For most of these seats, qualifying as a candidate happens between noon on Monday, June 13, and noon on Friday, June 17, although many candidates will get started earlier than that.

But this gives you time to consider what you may have to offer as a public servant.

Maybe you have strong opinions about growth, traffic, local schools, our water supply — or maybe you don’t. Maybe you just want to offer your sincere commitment to study the issues as they arise.

At the Volusia County Elections Office — and in the City Clerk’s offices for municipal elections — you’ll find people ready and willing to walk you through the process of qualifying to run. In most cases, meeting the requirements to run, such as age and length of residency, for example, will be easier than you might think.

Give it some thought. Even if you don’t win, you’ll have a chance to assure that issues you care about are considered.

A strong representative democracy requires citizen participation at all levels, and running for office at the local level can be a great way to help shape the future of your community.

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