The Last Word

Local leaders play important role in political system.

A. Scott Anderson Mar 1, 2017

Wow! What exciting political times we live in. We’re seeing the biggest political shakeup in Washington, D.C., in many decades. Utah and Idaho are lucky to be represented in the U.S. House and Senate by wise, experienced and capable leaders who have influence in the nation’s capital. We wish them and our new president well as they guide our country and take it in a new direction. It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Meanwhile, 2017 is also an important year for local politics. Utah’s legislative session ended on March 9, and Idaho’s session will end a few weeks later. Idaho and Utah have excellent governance in their legislatures and governor’s offices. Both states are among the top-performing states in the country economically, with strong business growth and tax revenues for education and other important purposes.

A. Scott Anderson, Zions Bank President and CEO
A. Scott Anderson, Zions Bank President and CEO

Legislators have wisely balanced budgets, kept taxes reasonable and enacted pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-business legislation. The national government would be smart to follow the example of Idaho and Utah.

Another important level of government will be highlighted this year as municipal elections are held in cities and towns across Utah and Idaho. These municipal elections are actually bigger than even-year, general elections in terms of the number of candidates running. A mixture of mayors and city council members are up for election, generally for four-year terms. Idaho has about 200 incorporated cities, and Utah has 230.

Local political battles can be just as tough as statewide and national elections. City leaders are the elected officials closest to home.

We often don’t pay much attention to city governments unless something goes wrong. But municipalities provide services we use on a daily basis, like law enforcement, fire services, street maintenance and traffic lights, parks and recreation, and water, sewer and garbage services. Some cities have their own power departments. If the road in front of your home has potholes or isn’t plowed frequently enough when it snows, then you probably call your mayor or city council member.

City leaders also make important planning and zoning decisions, license businesses, and create long-range plans to make their cities great places to live, work, play and raise families.

City officials are usually approachable and accessible. They return phone calls and are almost always happy to talk to constituents. City councils routinely reserve time in their regular council meetings for city residents to make comments or talk about anything they wish.

If you have political ambitions, running for a city elective office is a great way to get involved in politics and make a difference in your community. Some smaller communities often have a hard time finding good people to run for office.

Most mayoral positions, except in larger cities, and virtually all city council positions are part-time, so those who serve can have other jobs. Serving requires time and sacrifice, but governments at all levels need good people to serve.

In Idaho, city campaigns usually begin in the second half of the year. The municipal election filing period is Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, with the final election on Nov. 7. Idaho does not hold municipal primary elections, but some cities hold run-off elections if several candidates run for a seat and no candidate reaches a certain percentage of votes.

In Utah, most mayors are up for election this year, except for Salt Lake City, Ogden and a few other cities. About half of city council seats will be up for election. The Utah municipal election filing period is June 1-7, with the primary election on Aug. 15 and the final election on Nov. 7.

If you like government and have a vision for your community, it’s not too early to start thinking about running for a city position.

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