EDITORIAL: Running for public office is the right of all citizens

Fast approaching are filing deadlines for those who are considering becoming a candidate for the Liberty Hill City Council or the Liberty Hill Independent School District Board of Trustees, or the school board as we Texans prefer to call it.

These offices are widely misunderstood, often relegated to obscurity and many times turn into a quiet gathering of those in the know. Recently, The Independent set about asking regular folks around our community about the duties and powers and of the city council and local school board. We were astounded by some of the results of this anecdotal, cursory and non-scientific conversation about the importance of these positions.

It is no wonder that there are few contested races for these important jobs since the voting taxpayers are confused about the fundamental roles of our local elected officials.

Some of the misconceptions we learned:

* The School Board  works FOR the School Superintendent.

Incorrect! Although this misstatement seemed to be commonly held as true and one might get that impression from the sometimes lack of direct communication between school board members and the public, the opposite is actually true. The Superintendent is chosen by and works for the elected board of trustees.

* Regular citizens cannot run for the City Council, you must own property.

Incorrect! Instead, you must reside in the city limits and be a registered voter.

* You must have children in the school district to serve on the school board.

Incorrect! Although we think school board members who have children who currently attend school in the district offer a distinct advantage to understanding how decisions impact students, all taxpayers have an interest in the operations of our schools.

* You must have a college degree.

Incorrect! Neither school board members or city council members have an education requirement of any kind. Currently, both bodies have members who have earned higher education degrees as well as those who have not.

* You must be previously selected by the Superintendent or the Mayor.

Again, another misconception that may seem rooted in truth because of the lack of competition in some of these races, which also creates a tiny voter turnout.

All of these misconceptions are oft-repeated, dangerously incorrect and contribute to the secretive view the public sometimes holds toward  these governmental entities.

Of course any citizen of voting age may file for any local office, campaign to their neighbors and get elected.

The future of public education in our country faces important obstacles in student performance as well as the overall safety of our children. In Texas, we find ourselves at an important crossroads as powerful people seek to move our state toward private schools and vouchers. In Liberty Hill, public education deserves to be on the front burner as well. Our community narrowly supported incurring a large public debt to build a new high school and athletic complex gambling on a future population explosion.

Issues of academic achievement, extra-curricular activites, debt service, school infrastructure needs, educator pay and retention, as well as campus safety are but a few of the very real concerns facing our community during the next terms of office. Parents and citizens should be encouraged to share their expertise and worries with their elected school board without being made to feel uncomfortable or face ridicule that borderlines intimidation. Liberty Hill has ushered in a brave new era by counting on new families to rush into our community to live, work and raise their children. In turn, they will expect to have their voices heard.

Economic development, jobs and business growth are sure to be near the top of the list for those seeking positions on the city council. As Liberty Hill continues in its path to become the northernmost bedroom community to Austin, there remain many questions as to whether this city government is up to the task of attracting the types of new businesses that can help bring in  sales tax revenue and help create badly needed jobs.

In the last election cycle, the city council races revolved solely around a pro-business agenda. New candidates said there were too many rules, taxes were too high and the city budget was too large. The incumbents pointed to steady growth in the face of the challenges of a once rural community converting into a bedroom community in the shadow of a large city.  The new pro-business candidates swept the election, albeit with a small voter turnout. Since that time, the same business owners who helped propel those into power now say they feel duped by those they helped to win.

As the Texas economy continues to outpace the national downturns, perhaps it is fitting that local business owners ask where the Liberty Hill prosperity and economic growth is and why has it not reached us?

Every day, we hear that competition is good, whether it be in business, in sports or in everyday life. If so, the same is true in public service. Open debate, public discussion and strategic planning are good things. We encourage all citizens to consider public service.

Perhaps the answer to our collective future is standing right in front of us. Perhaps it is you who is qualified to serve as a member of the Liberty Hill City Council or the LHISD Board of Trustees. Maybe you’ve misunderstood all the rules. Maybe it’s easider to serve in public office than you originally thought?

Maybe your ideas and your vision for the future are better than you thought.

If so, please consider filing as a candidate by March 2 and let the exchange of fresh, new, fruitful ideas begin. Your community needs you now.