By the time this edition of The Beacon hits mailboxes across West Volusia, we’ll have some new representatives working for us in local government. This is a message for them.

Whether you’re stepping onto a dais for the first time, or returning to office courtesy of the voters, we thought you might like to know what the local newspaper — and, we think, its readers — expect from their local elected officials.

First of all, transparency. You weren’t elected to be CEO of a private operation, you were elected to work for the people.

Those are the people, by the way, who will pay for every program, every policy and every purchase you vote to approve while in office. Those people deserve to know everything that goes on in the making of their local government and local laws — not just what’s polished and served up in public meetings.

Good communication. When the news media come calling (or texting or emailing or telephoning), it’s not an intrusion on your time. It’s your job.

And we can help you do that job. With 4,600 households a week paying for a copy of The Beacon, 11,000 more getting our EXTRA! in the mailbox, and 40,000 online visits to our website each week, chatting with The Beacon, for example, equates to communicating with thousands of your constituents.

You may be nervous at first, and we understand that. Being quoted in the news can be a scary business. But, you will soon learn that the local newspaper isn’t out to get you. We’re interested in partnering with you to keep the people informed.

Good listening. Recognize that no issue is as simple as black or white; one or the other. Prove that you respect your constituents enough to not boil complex issues down to meaningless platitudes. So, make time to listen and learn before deciding what the right answer is.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve grown up in sort of a community silo of people who look like you, have about the same income as you, and generally face the same challenges and problems as you and your family do. Now that you’re in elected office, your sphere needs to widen.

Be grateful for the constituents who want to share their problems. They have a lot to teach you.

Drop the partisan politics. Many of you were elected to serve in nonpartisan roles in nonpartisan elections because of your nonpartisan stance on local matters. Dragging party politics and culture-war-of-the-day nonsense to city halls, or to the County Council and the School Board only divides our communities.

Remember the little guys. Whether these are residents worried about their quality of life, local small-business owners trying to make a living, or members of marginalized communities who don’t feel like their voices matter, remember that you were elected to serve all of your constituents, not just the ones who agree with you, not just the loudest voices in the room, and not only those who can afford to have high-priced attorneys represent them.

Be good stewards of not just our taxes, but our institutions, too. Look, we get it, we all want to pay less in taxes, and nobody wants government to waste money. But, taking a hard look at the budget and ensuring we can still offer consistent services may be more valuable than slashing services just to score political points by edging taxes a few pennies lower. And, help us educate taxpayers about the challenges.

Good luck. And, thanks for your willingness to serve.



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