There is something about the air the first day or two after an election. It's a little refreshing. A little electric. A little apprehensive. Even if a whole townful of incumbents swept into office for their third or fourth terms, even, alas, if less than 25 percent of the voters put them there, there is the feel of a new beginning, the opportunity for a fresh start.
In that spirit, we pause to offer some notions to consider for the officeholders beginning terms in our suburbs in nearly 800 village, township and school elected positions, whether they are longtime leaders carried into office on a landslide or newcomers anxiously looking to the years ahead after a night of nail biting.
To begin, successful candidates, we urge you to think about service and what that word demands of you. Your friends and neighbors have shown you a signal honor by putting you in position to make decisions that will affect the most fundamental aspects of their quality of life -- the safety of their roads, the beauty and utility of their parks, the functions of their libraries, the management of their tax contributions, the capacity to prepare their children for the rigors of adulthood in an unforeseeable future. That is not a consent to blithely follow the whims of your ego or imagination, but a call to lead through listening, study, hard work and consensus building.
It is not permission to huddle with colleagues behind closed doors and emerge with decrees that may or may not solve a community problem or address a need. It is a call to show your work in the bright light of day and to engage others in the continual and arduous task of making their communities better.
The word "fight" is much overused in politics. Yes, your constituents want you to stand up for principles and to protect the activities and institutions that make their lives enjoyable and safe. But as much as that, they expect you to work cooperatively with others -- with administrative staff, with business people, with individuals, with families and, especially, with your elected colleagues -- to achieve goals that improve life for everyone.
They expect you to take care of their money as if it were your own. They expect you to lead cheers for your town when it deserves them and identify and fix problems when you find them. They expect you to take their calls at odd hours and to respond to their proposals and appeals with the same positive energy you showed during your campaign. They expect you to realize that sometimes their interests are more compelling than your own and to work just as hard in those times as you would in any other.
This is no small task you assume today. That you have been determined fit and worthy to assume it is a show of faith of which you are right to be proud, and your willingness to take it on is an act for which we all are, or ought to be, grateful. The anticipation of it colors and warms these first post-election days. Just don't forget, it is a feeling that waits to be earned.