I’ve always thought it’s important for candidates who are running for office to be familiar with whatever that position entails. That way, they have a better sense of what they’re getting into. But more importantly, it means that they’re also aware of the limitations of what they can and cannot do after they’ve been elected.
Many people try to get involved in local government because they’re unhappy with what’s happening at the state or federal level. Once they start their careers in public service, they realize that they have little to no influence over what happens in Salem or Washington D.C. and become frustrated.
That kind of passion can often lead to the kind of virtue signaling that we’ve started seeing play out in city council and school board meetings. While it may be easy to pass proclamations, this actually accomplishes very little and is seldom a good use of the limited time that the local government body, its elected officials and the staff’s time.
There are many reasons that I’m grateful to the citizens of Wilsonville for having elected me to its city council in the November 2018 general election. The time I’ve spent serving on that body has given me a really good understanding of what goes into providing critical services. I’ve also learned how important it is for local elected officials to be responsive to their neighbors’ needs.
While the City of Wilsonville does have some influence over decisions that are made on a regional basis, the fact of the matter is that it does what most cities do. The most essential services it provides are things like water, sewer and streets. But those are also the kinds of things that affect citizens the most in their daily lives. They’re extremely important, and they need to be done right.
The City of Wilsonville is fortunate to have dedicated staff who handle those functions, free from direct political influence. And that’s exactly how it should be.
All of the time I’ve spent attending city council meetings has taught me much about how local government works, as well as what it’s limitations. It’s taught me how to be realistic in my approach and how to engage in collaborative problem solving with diverse groups of stakeholders.
But above and beyond all else, being on the Wilsonville City Council has been the perfect preparation for Clackamas County Commissioner, Position 5. The county performs many of the same basic functions as the City of Wilsonville, but on a much larger scale.
I’ve learned enough as a city councilor to be ready to hit the ground running as a county commissioner immediately upon taking the oath of office. Empty symbolic gestures may look, feel and sound good, but what we really need is concrete action based on consensus arrived at through extensive public processes. I’ve done a lot of that over the last four years in Wilsonville, and would be honored to spend the next four years doing it for all of Clackamas County’s residents.
*If you’d like to find out more about or support the Ben West for Clackamas County Commission campaign, please check out our website at http://benwest22.com/