Does an ideal candidate exist?
Recently friends and I were talking about elected officials who often resort to name calling and personal attacks. I find this behavior to be reprehensible and unfitting of community leaders.
The discussion led me to question whether there really is an ideal candidate and the qualities that one would need to embody in order to be the perfect candidate.
While my list of qualifications may be different than yours, it’s an important exercise to go through when you’re making decisions about whom you will vote for in our upcoming elections. In true David Letterman form, here’s my top 10:
10. Knowledge of the issues: This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are always a few candidates who run for the sake of running and don’t take the time to do their homework on the issues facing the arena in which they are seeking election. I question the motivation of a candidate who doesn’t know the issues. That’s not to say that a candidate can’t be stumped every once in a while on a fact or two. We’re all human and can’t be expected to commit every fact and figure to memory. However, a general, working awareness of the issues is essential.
9. Applicable work or volunteer experience: The type of work that we do and the organizations to which we volunteer help shape our perspectives on certain issues. If a candidate works for, or volunteers for, an organization that is extremist or totally out of sync with my values and beliefs, it would be difficult to call this person ideal.
8. Professionalism: As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, elected officials should have enough sense to keep their debates and comments to the issues, rather than making personal attacks on others. The same rule applies to candidates. All too often the debates turn into a “he said, she said” argument that is totally irrelevant to how the person will govern. The ideal candidate should have enough emotional and intellectual maturity to act with professional decorum.
7. Civility: This word seems to come up during every election cycle and some may say that this is repetitive of number eight’s professionalism. My definition of civility is simply acting in a polite and courteous manner with opponents and voters. This includes those people who offer a different view than the candidate’s own.
6. Commitment to the job: The reality is that being a public servant is hard work. The ideal candidate is dedicated to the job that they are seeking and is well aware of the time commitment that it will require. The ideal candidate is also willing to make personal sacrifices of time to be an active participant in the happenings of the jurisdiction.
5. Commitment to the community: The ideal candidate is part cheerleader and part spokesperson for the community. My ideal candidate is proud of the jurisdiction and boldly promotes its positive aspects. The ideal candidate formulates the campaign platform on what is in the best interest of the community and not a personal agenda or goal of attaining higher office.
4. Strong work ethic: I want someone who isn’t in it for the paycheck, prestige or power or retirement check. The ideal candidate works hard and isn’t concerned about the number of hours put in, but rather the quality of the work. This person knows that a little blood, sweat and tears never hurt anyone.
3. Decisiveness: My ideal candidate is able to pull the trigger and not waffle on the important issues. This may seem like another no-brainer, but we all too often see candidates who try to please everyone, including special interests. It’s okay to take a stance on an issue if you feel passionately about it.
2. Small ego: You may be surprised to see this characteristic ranking so high, but it’s very important in my ideal candidate. The ability to put one’s own personal agenda aside for the greater good is extremely important. So many of our candidates who become elected leaders let the titles and the powers go to their heads. We need to get back to our founding fathers who wanted people to be elected for the people and by the people.
1. Character: This number one quality may encompass several of the items in my Top 10, but it’s so important that I decided to list it separately. At all levels of government, we have elected officials who have made poor decisions in both their personal and professional lives. The ideal candidate has integrity and an unfailing moral compass that allows for decision-making in the face of opposition and the ability to act for the greater good.
You’ll note that gender, age, national origin and many other factors were omitted. This was intentional, as these characteristics don’t matter in my selection of the ideal candidate.
We are fortunate to have quite a few elected officials in our local area who meet all, or at least most, of the characteristics in my Top 10. Unfortunately, there are a few who could still use some work. I guess that’s the beauty of an election cycle. Perhaps the electorate will catch on to their bad behavior and vote them onto the unemployment line.