OUR VIEW: We expect officials to show up
One of the hallmarks of a successful local leader is how accessible they are to their constituents.
Do they answer emails and return phone calls? Are they seen around town and known as a local leader? Do they belong to a civic club, church or other group where they regularly interact with the people?
Events are also important. Chamber and other events are prime places for our local leaders to casually interact with the citizenry and take the public’s temperature in a low key fashion.
That’s why the comments of Albemarle City Councilwoman Shirley Lowder at this past Monday’s city council meeting were so surprising. While nothing should surprise us these days in the topsy turvy world of politics, Lowder basically said she doesn’t care about showing up at any events and she just isn’t going to do it.
“I’m not one of those who can do all that (attending events)…well, I’m not the only one, but I’m the only one who will say I’m not going to do it,” Lowder said. “It doesn’t matter to me how many on the council show up for the Halloween trick or treat.”
To be fair, Lowder is nearly 80. She may have health issues which prevent her from attending events. But she should not discredit or devalue those events as important interactions for the other council members.
City council, county commissioners and school board members have been elected to cheerlead as well as lead. They should be proud supporters of the entity they represent while at the same time having the ability to recognize shortcomings and work to make things better.
Showing up at events is part of that. Plus, those hours spent at ribbon cuttings, chicken dinners and the “bingo hut,” as Lowder said, gives local leaders a unique opportunity to hear what people are talking about and ask questions.
Citizens who may never come to a council meeting, call a city official or email the mayor may feel more comfortable talking to local leaders about an issue or asking a question about city government over a meal at a local gathering.
If Lowder is unwilling or unable to interact with the people she represents, that unfortunately makes her a less informed and less valuable member of city council. That is something she and the voters should consider when election season comes around again.
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