A little competition can be a good thing

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I am both surprised and somewhat disappointed that upcoming municipal and county elections in our area have such little competition. The number of uncontested local races seems much higher than normal.

This lack of interest in local offices is a result of: A. Voters are highly satisfied with their current representatives and thus, no opposition. Or B. Voters are generally apathetic and have decided to sit on the sidelines and let the chips fall where they may.

Now don't misunderstand - I am among those who believe we have a good crop of elected officials in our area and, for the most part, they do their jobs with the desire to fully serve their communities.

But I'm also concerned that city council races and school board races - not just in Sikeston - go largely uncontested. I have always believed that the public is better served when given choices. But I also recognize that tremendous sacrifices are in store for those who commit to public service. And the overwhelming majority of the public simply cannot make those sacrifices of time and stress.

I get it!

There is however some healthy competition in state races for the House and Senate in Missouri. Redistricting changed the status quo for many and that process alone opened the doors for some true competition in some very important posts.

I remain interested in the final outcome of lawsuits challenging the redistricting maps that have been proposed. That redistricting came as a bombshell for our area with Sikeston - by way of example - being currently divided into two House districts. That is a first.

The outcome of that redistricting map for Sikeston is that half of our community will most likely be represented by a new Republican House member while the other half is likely to be represented by an incumbent Democrat.

The practical impact of this move may end up being a positive for our community. But it will open some interesting discussion when the representatives on our behalf vote opposite on critical state questions.

I well remember times when city council races would have four or five candidates vying for one seat. Same can be said of area school boards.

But increasingly, that thirst for public service is embraced by fewer and fewer citizens. Given the time commitment required to serve in these positions, I fully understand why often candidates are hard to find.

Sometimes when incumbents run without opposition, it doesn't always mean that voters are fully satisfied with those who hold these positions. Often it's just a case of someone making a commitment of time and that greatly reduces those who may have an interest.

Regardless, all of those who volunteer for public service should be fully commended. Just because I would like to see more local competition doesn't mean those who now serve are not doing their job. I simply believe competition brings out the best in all of us.

And that applies to local governments and school boards.

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