So you’re wondering what it’s like to run for office, maybe get elected, perhaps make what you consider to be the best decisions for the future of the community you serve.
Tuesday night, during an interview in the stairwell at the Douglas County Courthouse, I saw firsthand what elected officials can face as they — and the people they represent — live with the decisions.
I was talking with Rich Minder, president of the Lawrence school board, who had stopped by to follow election results and lend support to Marlene Merrill, a board colleague for the past four years.
A vocal interruption came from my left.
“Excuse me?” I said.
There stood Peggy Roth, mother of a Wakarusa Valley School student and wife of Bill Roth, a candidate for the school board. I’d seen her just a week earlier, as the board had voted to close Wakarusa Valley over her objections at district headquarters; she’d suggested starting her own school district, so that her son wouldn’t be forced to attend Broken Arrow School next year.
Standing there in the stairwell with her son, she said something else. I recall mentioning something about it being Election Night, and that talking to officials was part of my job.
“I’m here interviewing Rich Minder,” I said, adding for effect: “He’s president of the Lawrence school board.”
“I’m going to kill that guy.”
The words hung in the air. She’d been looking at Minder, who hadn’t said a word.
Looking back now, I can’t be sure if she had said “guy” or “man.” The phrase didn’t make it into the notes from my interview, the one that had been interrupted by a Wakarusa Valley parent who also might have been frustrated by her husband’s election loss.
On Thursday I received a call from David Hardy, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy. He needed to get a statement, so he stopped by the office. We talked. He’s gathering information.
There’s no telling what will come of all of this, either through the judicial system or otherwise. The district has had law-enforcement personnel on site for the past couple board meetings, given that they’re discussing closing schools, which is an emotional issue.
But having covered local governments on and off for the past 18 years in Lawrence, I do know this: Elected officials run for office, saying they strive to serve their communities and make the best decisions they can.
We all have to live with the consequences.