Nowhere is the ideal of government by the people more evident than at the local elected level. The very fiber of America is the millions of volunteer politicians who dedicate time and energy to local office holding.
Despite all the bad jokes and cartoon depictions of self-satisfied-looking rotund men with their hands in the public pocket, these folks — men and women — represent what is best about this country.
Some would argue that bottom-up social and political influence, rooted in local parties, local governments, service clubs, churches and recreational gathering places creates stability unique in America. Policy evolves at this level, and the strength of our culture is based on compromise attained by neighbors talking issues through with neighbors.
The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution empowered the states to provide local control over local needs. While federalism has expanded with programs designed to benefit Americans no matter where they live, top-down judgment is subject to political pressure that delivers an ineffective product through a rigid system. The bigger the central system gets, the more hands get a piece of the pie — which leaves less to be used for the intended
Today’s governing process is coming to grips with inefficiency, and grassroots-inspired organizations are currently seeking to impact the process. The North Carolina system may rebuke good management, as school boards and county commissioners are separate bodies of elected officials.
Commissioners have local taxing power, and school boards have no such power. The seeds of an adversarial relationship were planted by the state lawmakers, but over time things do work — somehow.
Because school boards and county boards of commissioners are composed of citizen volunteers, there is a remarkable opportunity for compromise. Things may get heated at one time or another, but the philosophical chasm that divides Washington, D.C., seldom exists with such intensity that a compromise solution cannot be offered and adopted.
People who attend church together, who play golf together, share meals together and car-pool their children together understand that there is more to life than whether you believe in Milton Friedman or John Maynard Keynes. Wise people know that no single idea is right all the time.
I hope greater numbers of Moore County people will begin to see the importance of volunteerism on county-appointed boards or to think about filing to run for local office.
Elected office is a two-step process in North Carolina. We have a May primary election in which the major political parties determine who will represent them in the fall general election. There is no crossover voting in primaries, so you must have registered your affiliation with a party to vote in its primary election. Sometimes a primary winner from one party faces no opposition in the November general election and can anticipate being seated in December.
There are rules and deadlines surrounding unaffiliated candidates and rules that permit write-in candidates. Last November, Pinehurst elected a write-in candidate to its Village Council. The system works best when it is open to anyone with the time, patience and money to run for office.
It is filing time again, and candidates are needed for various local office positions, including the Board of Education and Board of Commissioners. A May primary will select each party’s standardbearer for the general election in November. The filing period for primary election at the Moore County Board of Elections began Monday, Feb. 10, and ends Wednesday, Feb. 28, at noon.
The opportunity to serve is not limited to those who aspire to an office. Any person who is seeking elected office will need a support team that will include a treasurer responsible for campaign cash flow and state election board filings. In the campaign committee, perspiration is on equal footing with inspiration, and generous amounts of both are needed by the successful candidate.
Four school board positions are available. Three are at-large seats without a residency requirement, and the fourth represents the North Moore-Robbins area. As the schools move forward with digital learning, student proficiency testing, new construction projects and a bond issue, fresh viewpoints have a strong influence on policy-making.
Three commissioner seats will be filled by the voters in November. Much effort is necessary to carry out the job successfully, and to some it may appear as a daunting responsibility. Still, Moore County is a dynamic place to be, and an overworked, underpaid commissioner will generate a legacy that will live on for years.
Think about a personal role, in which you can add a dimension to the community and to your own life as well.