Community Economic Development – Are You Ready To Lead?

Posted: November 14, 2014

Is your community thinking about more jobs, more business, revitalizing your downtown? What’s your role in making that happen? Here’s one option: run for local government office.

Pennsylvania’s system of local government puts many decisions about economic development in the hands of township supervisors, borough and city council members, and school district directors. Land use, growth policies, infrastructure improvements and taxation are some of the more obvious areas of concern. Local officials also help spur economic development by leading community discussions around quality of life and visions for the future. It’s often up to local officials to bring citizens together, build enthusiasm and talk about the big picture.

This could be you – but you need to give it some thought right now. The primary isn’t until May 2015, and the general election won’t happen until next November but if you plan to run for office, it’s time to get ready. To become a candidate you must circulate and submit a petition of candidacy; and you can only do that from mid-February to mid-March. In other words, you need to know very soon whether or not you’d like to give it a try.

If you’re like most of us, you’ve never thought of yourself as a politician. But your community probably needs you. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. In many parts of Pennsylvania there aren’t enough candidates to fill all the seats. If no one cares enough to run, what does that say about community development efforts? Someone needs to rev the community engine.
  2. Local government is where the action is. You can help make decisions about how your community will grow, what shape the streets are in, and which services are most important.
  3. It’s fun. Really, it is. Yes there are a lot of meetings, and citizens will complain, but there’s also a tremendous sense of accomplishment in steering the community and getting things done.
  4. Maybe it’s your turn. Public service is a great way to give back or pay it forward. And it sets a great example for your kids.
  5. You’re young enough – your community needs your new thinking.
  6. You’re old enough – your community needs your wisdom and experience.

Are you willing to think about it? Here are a few quick ways to find out if elected office is for you:

  • Visit your municipality’s website (if they have one).
  • Read meeting minutes, newsletters and other information from your municipality. You may have to stop by the municipal building to get these items.
  • Attend one of the regular monthly meetings. Stay for the whole show. It’s budget and tax rate time, so you should be very interested in attending.
  • Talk to your current elected officials. Ask them what they like best and least about public service.

If you’re willing to give it a whirl, check out Penn State Extension’s workshop Toss Your Hat in the Ring, which will be offered in many areas in January and February 2015 – check this site for dates and locations. If we’re not coming to your neighborhood, try the League of Women Voters or your county elections office. Or contact me – I may know about other workshops. And thanks for thinking about public office.

Contact Information

Judy Chambers
  • Educator, Economic and Community Development
Phone: 717-334-6271 x313