I was surprised to learn a few weeks ago that I had no opponents for my re-election to the South Anchorage Assembly seat.
There are plenty of smart people in South Anchorage who would do a great job. When I ran three years ago, it wasn’t because I was my top choice, I just couldn’t convince the people higher on my list to run. You should consider it next time around.
I first got involved in local government because I learned years ago that big decisions were being made, with or without me. That made me nervous. I think that if we want to live in a community that we can be proud of, good people have got to stay involved.
A crowded field of candidates in a local election is a sign of strong involvement. When I ran three years ago, there were six candidates and the campaign was lively. South Anchorage was dotted with campaign signs. Candidates invested in ice cleats and hiked around hillside neighborhoods each evening asking neighbors for their thoughts and ideas. Three eventually dropped out, but the three who remained were credible candidates who brought a lot to the campaign and had credentials for the job. During my term, I contacted former rivals for advice and help.
The job of an Assembly member is not easy. It takes a lot of time. Even after many active years in the civic arena, most of the things we deal with on the Assembly are totally new to me. There are long days and nights learning about the issues. It’s like being in grad school again, with final exams every other Tuesday night.
The job puts you in a vulnerable place. You have to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when you want to vote ‘maybe.’ And you do that in front of the whole world. And on Wednesday, people will tell you how you should have voted on Tuesday and you’ll wonder why they didn’t tell you on Monday!
But the job also puts you in a crowd of tremendously smart and decent people. I have great admiration for my peers on the Assembly, in the clerk’s office, the team our mayor has built, the long-time employees, the active residents who get in the mix. When you’ve got a lot of good people working hard to make their home a better place, you can’t help but get fired up, even when the challenges feel daunting.
Getting involved is important. It’s a good for Anchorage when there are lots of people so passionate about our home that they toss caution aside and offer their skills, experience, time, money and more to help make the big decisions. It’s a sign of a healthy community.
So I want you to start thinking about this now. You need to get ready. Connect with your Community Council. Consider a municipal board or commission. Attend some Assembly meetings. Not just Tuesday evening meetings — go to some work sessions and committee meetings. Whatever your involvement is, ramp it up a bit. Garner your resources. Build a team. I’m not kidding, I want you to run.
This year, I run unopposed. But I’m still running. My neighbors in South Anchorage will hear from me this election. I am holding events in homes around the district every week to connect with constituents. I am walking door-to-door to meet and talk with people. I am attending any forum that will have me. You will see my campaign signs planted here and there.
Campaigning is more than just getting the votes. It’s about connecting candidates to residents and, more important, connecting people to our government. With a field of one, fewer connections are made.
So next time, get involved. Run against me!
John Weddleton is the longtime owner of Bosco’s Comics and has served on the Anchorage Assembly for South Anchorage, Girdwood, and Turnagain Arm since 2016. He is up for re-election in the April 2 vote-by-mail municipal election.
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