When I first ran for elected office eight years ago, I felt that my experience running farms, businesses, commissions and non-profits would give me the appropriate background to become a contributing and effective Selectman. Then four years ago, I decided to run for First Selectman.
At the risk of sounding like a typical politician who thinks one deserves to be re-elected based on experience, I really feel in the case of running a small town, like Bridgewater, you are best served by being practical, frugal, respectful and vigilant.
To be practical, you should know something about trucks, machinery, roads, snow removal, water and septic systems, bridges and culverts, electricity, carpentry, masonry, trees, mowing, etc.
To be frugal, you should know what things should cost, be able to bargain, select quality contractors and materials, pay close and constant attention to budgets, be a math person, understand and deploy software and definitely keep taxes as low as possible.
To be respectful, you need to consider and appreciate all points of view, seek advice from citizens in meetings, keep an open door, respond thoughtfully to emails and calls and most importantly listen without judgement. You serve the people, not a political party, and never your self-image.
Lastly, to be vigilant, you need to have experience to avoid problems. You need to manage contractor’s work, execute agreements, keep an eye on state and regional issues affecting us, manage the police, hire the best people to work in Town Hall, pay attention to development proposals, manage Regional Animal Control, protect Burnham School and much more.
To be an effective First Selectman, it also helps to be able to write cogently and speak clearly. Yes, experience matters, but you perform at your best if you love the work and work hard at it.
Along these lines of thought I found some apt quotations that I agree with:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
“There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” – Indira Gandhi