Local government leaders share experiences with potential candidates
Recent Shippensburg Borough Council appointee attends
By AMBER SOUTH
CHAMBERSBURG — About 20 people attended a workshop Wednesday to learn how to become candidates for local government positions and what to expect should they be elected.
Adams County’s Penn State Extension hosts versions of “Toss Your Hat in the Ring,” every municipal election year, in Franklin, Cumberland, Adams and York counties, several weeks before candidates may start circulating nomination petitions and must meet important filing deadlines. The information provided helps candidates avoid mistakes that could get them kicked off the ballot and promotes democracy in local government by filling ballots, Chambers said.
“I wish I’d attended such a session six years ago when I was running for county commissioner,” said Franklin County Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski, a member of a panel of local government officials at Franklin County’s event.
Judy Chambers, community and economic educator with PSE-Adams County, gave a overview of Pennsylvania’s local government system. Attendees learned about the organization of boroughs, townships and counties, including how population affects the number of people in a legislative body and the responsibilities of those groups.
Chambers also went over some general traits PSE believes people in elected government positions should possess. She encouraged the potential candidates to know what they are getting into in relation to personal life and public life.
“I can’t believe how many people run for local office and haven’t been to a single meeting,” she said.
Jean Byers, deputy chief clerk of Franklin County and a local elections expert, took attendees through the details of becoming a candidate.
A panel that included Ziobrowski, Tuscarora Area School Board Director Chris Ardinger, Mont Alto Borough Council Member Dennis Monn and Greene Township Supervisor Todd Burns shared with the audience their personal views of running for and holding an elected office.
“It’s a grind,” Burns said of campaigning, but added it was one of the most rewarding things in his political experience because of meeting so many people.
Ziobrowski, a Democrat, pointed out that in running for a local office one’s political party is not as important as getting known in the community. He said he feels his outgoing nature helped him in his run for commissioner.
Accomplishments will take time to achieve once in an office, Ardinger said. Monn talked about community involvement in local government, and said to expect to hear complaints and issues; he added that receiving praise is the most rewarding part of his job.
The panel represented an array of backgrounds; Ardinger, a 2009 graduate of James Buchanan High School, explained how a love for volunteering became a successful campaign for school board while Monn said he “swore for years” he would never want to be involved in his hometown’s borough council, yet he is now the president.
“I thought I had a lot in common with those elected officials that spoke. A lot were like me, not having a lot of political background and being appointed for an office. They wanted to stay and run to help their communities,” said attendee Sue Fisher.
Fisher was one of several people who raised their hands when Chambers asked who came to the workshop knowing they will run for elected office. A recent appointee to a vacated seat on Shippensburg Borough Council, she thought she would have months to prepare to run for the seat but quickly learned she only had a few weeks.
In the process of being appointed for the council seat, Fisher asked questions about the various responsibilities and sought advice from council members on making decisions and dealing with the public. She learned from the panel that many people have the same questions in their first experience in local government.
“It felt good being that all the things I questioned and wondered about are the things that everybody wonders about,” she said.
Amber South can be reached at email@example.com and 262-4771.