What’s especially exciting about this fall’s candidates are the number of new faces and the number of young people with families willing to take on the responsibilities of local government.
A community’s success depends on citizen involvement. Running for office is one of the ultimate ways to participate although there are just as many non-political volunteers who do as much meaningful work.
But being on a city council or school board takes time and patience. Local officials spend many nights in late meetings or attend events on weekends which could be spent with their family. The really dedicated do more than occupy seat time. They do their homework, ask tough questions and visit different neighborhoods and schools regularly. If you have a full-time demanding job plus a young family, it’s a major decision when you throw your hat in the ring. The good news about the recent crop of young candidates is that most of them are exceptionally talented with expertise their councils and school boards could readily use.
San Mateo Mayor David Lim is running for office for the second time and will easily be re-elected because he has become a council leader. He is everywhere in the neighborhoods and up to speed on all the issues. He is willing to be outspoken on concerns which need attention. He is not one to go along just to get along. While he may be criticized in some circles for having political ambitions (you can expect him to be a supervisor, a legislator or a congressman some day), San Mateo remains his top priority. He has three young children and a challenging job in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Two talented young challengers in the San Mateo November election have served on city commissions. Joshua Hugg, Housing Leadership Council program manager, has the most local experience of the two having served on the Community Relations Commission and Planning Commission. Joe Goethals is the current chair of the Public Works Commission. He is an attorney in the Alameda District Attorney’s Office and has children still in school. There are three open seats. But whatever happens this November, these two should eventually end up on San Mateo’s council.
In San Carlos, newcomer Cameron Johnson who works at Netflix and chairs the city’s Economic Development Advisory Commission has amassed an impressive list of endorsements: San Carlos councilmembers Mark Olbert and Ron Collins; Supervisor Dave Pine; Assemblymen Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, and Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park; and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. These experienced pros know Johnson has the right stuff. But what’s most impressive is that he is willing to volunteer his time when he has a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old at home. It’s important that councils and school boards have at least some members with young children to represent the future. Needless to say, some old experienced hands are important, too.
What about the number of candidates who are running with few major endorsements or the lack of service on a city or school commission or committee? It is important that people in the community, other than yourself, are willing to vouch for you. And for some voters, endorsements help them decide among candidates they do not know. But most important is involvement in local government before you toss your hat in the ring. It’s better to serve on a commission or committee before running for local office. It provides you with some brownie points and it enables voters to look at your track record. Occasionally, someone does get elected who has never done anything in their city or school district before but those instances are few and usually happen when not enough candidates file for office. So for those newbies who don’t make it this time and if this is something you really want to do (besides getting your name in the paper) volunteer for a civic committee and stay involved. Who knows? You could be the next person giving up several nights a month to listen to members of your community upset about a new development or shifting school boundaries.
Michael Corrall reminds me that I did not mention his race for San Carlos City Council in a previous column. Corrall briefly served on the Planning Commission but was not reappointed, because he is running for office. He feels he can do a better job listening to the community than the present incumbents. He is not seeking endorsements but “investing in shoe leather.” Also omitted was Karen Schmidt, San Mateo City Council candidate who has been endorsed by former state senator Quentin Kopp.
Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at email@example.com.