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Posted on Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Running for public office offers citizens a unique, satisfying experience

By Guest Column

My dynamic, first-time experience of vying for an elective office is a fulfilling, personal witness to Democracy in action. My dedicated attempt to win voter approval for a seat on the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Trustees was not successful. Upon reflection, the pursuit did satisfy my yearning for hands-on participation in the elective process and provided an avenue to raise issues I sincerely felt required attention. I earned the trust of nearly 18,000 voters on election day, of which I am appreciative. I would strongly encourage all citizens to consider a try for office.

Dale Leslie.JPG

Dale Leslie

But to paraphrase a late national newspaper columnist, "Here's what I learned on my way to (the election)."

1. In many jurisdictions, a candidate need not solicit countless signatures to earn a place on the ballot. For a nominal fee, the signature requirement is waved. This fact is an encouragement to citizens who hold full-time jobs in business or at home and have precious time to campaign.

2. The assumption that each campaign issue has two sides may be short-sighted. Despite my pragmatism, I discovered there is a diversity of sound reasoning which quickly can shred the stand you considered sound. "Pragmatic cuts" in government programs is an oxymoron.

3. "Acquaintances" and "friends" are not synonymous. The former outnumber the latter but it's your friends who actively support a candidacy.

4. New developments during a campaign and the ongoing issues raised is avoided review by community organizations, PTOs, business groups and the media, who apparently fear an appearance of advocacy of your candidacy. For instance, the adverse affect on the local economy by school district substantial labor contracts being awarded to cross-state vendors did not raise an eyelash of the area's largest business organization, the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, the Electrical Union Local reports that half of their licensed electricians remain without employment. The out-of-district companies hire workers from outside the area and their wages are drawn and spent in their own communities. There are reports of their work quality to be substandard.

5. The temptation to cut cost and overhead can result in the government throwing the "Baby Out With The Bathwater!" Ann Arbor Public Schools program to staff two police officers in each of the three high schools was unceremoniously dumped. Could two officers spending alternating days in the three schools save an effective program from extinction? What about financial support from grants? After the recent Connecticut school shooting, it appears the police presence quickly dissolved in the large high schools might be preferable.

As an aside, a particularly memorable experience occurred after I had voted and was preparing to leave the voting booth. A young father and his son were joining me in submitting our completed ballots. I commented to the father, "I think it is nice that your son accompanied you to the vote today. I should have done the same with my boys." The dad admitted, "My son is here to complete a long-term project in school to follow the election process to its conclusion." "Well, your son would probably be interested in meeting someone whose name is on the ballot — me!" I said. Upon my comment, the boy's eyes opened widely and his startled face appeared as if he had met someone famous. "You better report meeting Mr. Leslie in your summary, Jimmy!" the dad said with excitement. Oh, to be famous in someone's eyes!



Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:56 p.m.

Thank you Mr. Leslie for your thoughts on running for office and for the effort you put into trying to help your community. There are many people who appreciate it. Hopefully your piece will make it seem less intimidating for others to do the same. It *is* odd how much you see go on that gets overlooked in our community. The city recently lost the opportunity to help persuade 426 housing units (Colonial Square) to remain affordable which they could have done by offering incentives. Instead they aggressively went after them for increased taxes (which might why they prefer them costing more). Yet to this day I read story after story about how affordable housing is so needed in the area. The stability that this kind of housing offers youth alone is an investment that should not have been overlooked. Hopefully people will continue being involved even in the face of some of the negativity those in the public have to endure. It is important. Thanks again.

Dog Guy

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

Mr. Leslie, thank you for your noble run against that windmill . . . er . . . giant.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

OK, we were just talking about this yesterday. How many of us go to the polls and vote for people we know nothing about? How many voters really take the effort to know anything at all about a candidates positions or beliefs? How many just vote for a name because it seems familiar? How much does this skew the results? I do not vote for anyone or anything that I have no knowledge about. But I don't believe that is the norm. So win an election by putting your name out there - a lot!

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 10:16 p.m.

There is an easy fix for the problem you mention. Some states do all voting by mail, weeks in advance. It gives you a great opportunity to research every candidate. I always get my ballot by mail because I don't know whether I'll be in town and able to access my polling place. I wouldn't vote any other way. It is absurd to require people to leave work, leave their kids, etc, to go vote. Some waiting in line for hours.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Running for public office is a courageous decision. Some candidates probably don't realize the courage that's been required until after the election. To criticize someone who has put themselves out for public scrutiny is a cheap shot unless they have done it too.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

I voted for Mr. Leslie this past election, but the content of this column certainly doesn't encourage me to do so again.

Rick Stevens

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

'For a nominal fee, the signature requirement is waved.' It's spelled 'waived'. Hopefully you campaigned for higher educational standards.

Dale R. Leslie

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

Either definition works. Back to the classroom for you, my friend.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

I want AnnArbor.Com to allow editing (by those who have been screened and registered, maybe). The obvious mistake you mentioned could so easily have been corrected.

Jeff Westbrooks

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 3:26 a.m.

Here's an op-ed whereupon a person is opining as to how his trying for an elective office made him want to tell others not to be intimidated by the process and to run themselves. More everyday citizens trying to make a difference. And what do we get..ridiculous sub-humorous remarks chiding him or belittling his efforts. Nice job hosers!


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

Now, Dale, I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm guessing well over half the votes you got were simply votes against Deb Mexicotte.

Basic Bob

Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

I voted for Dale. I felt that he was the better candidate. It is difficult to unseat an incumbent, even one with a track record of poor decisions. I would say the majority of Ms. Mexicotte's votes were because of her name recognition and support from those who believed they were personally enriched by her presence on the board.


Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 10:36 p.m.

More cowbell!

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 9:52 p.m.

I guess you're starting your next campaign, given the D-side talking points about privatization. I'm glad the few dollars you spent on non-signatures bought you some fame in some child's eyes. In mine, your "column" brought me a name I will remember to vote against if I see it again. By the way, a true friend will not ask you to campaign for him.


Mon, Jan 7, 2013 : 4 a.m.

Na nay no. Na NAY no. You're a meanie.