With less than two weeks to the Jan. 22 filing deadline, a number of candidates are filing and announcing their intention to file for seats on the Lawrence City Commission and the Lawrence school board. The community should be grateful to those who are stepping up to seek these important posts and encourage other qualified candidates to throw their hats into the ring.
As always, three seats on the City Commission will be up for election this year. With filings and expected filings, as of Tuesday, it appeared there were five candidates, including incumbent Mike Amyx, for those slots. There has been less activity in the school board race. Three seats will be filled in the April election, and incumbents who hold two of those seats — Bob Byers and Vanessa Sanburn — have indicated they will seek re-election. No other candidates have surfaced so far.
By tradition, most candidates for City Commission and school board wait until after the first of the year to announce their intentions and start their campaigns. It’s also common for both fields to expand in the last week or even the last day before the filing deadline. Nonetheless, it’s certainly time for potential candidates and their supporters to be making their election decisions.
In recent years, a number of potential candidates have expressed concern about the contentious atmosphere surrounding elected officeholders. It’s unfortunate that some well-qualified candidates may decide to skip the race because they fear the impact serving in public office may have on their business or personal lives. This may be especially true of the City Commission, because it has a somewhat higher profile in the community, but it also can be a factor in the school board races.
Although the decisions of the local school board have a profound impact on the community and its taxpayers, it is a thankless job. City commissioners get a small salary for their labors, but school board members are paid nothing. However, the community depends on these people to oversee the district’s finances and its professional staff. The best school board members are those who don’t simply rubber-stamp administration decisions but raise questions and set priorities based on what is best for the community.
The point is, if local residents want to be represented by smart, well-qualified school board and City Commission members, they need to step up and support those people both now and after they are elected. There are many reasons to let someone else do these important jobs. We need to help and support those who are willing to serve.