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Commentary: Thank you for running for office

Social media allows me to stay connected with friends -- several of whom ran for office during the past year. This past week, some were elected and some were not.

I’ve followed friends’ campaigns in Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota and North Dakota. On election night and the following day, I went to their campaign pages and personal social media accounts to see the results. I searched for news stories. From afar, I was proud of the election results, regardless of the outcome.

Whether they live in a city or rural area or work on a farm, in a small-town business or in a corporate urban office, all had shared purpose. No, they didn’t share the same purpose, but they campaigned with purpose and determination to stand up for their values, drive policy and influence change. Right up until it was time to vote, they campaigned, tirelessly with selfless volunteers and family members alongside them.

Here’s to you, friends. Thank you for running for office. We need you. We need your voice. Our cities, counties, legislative districts, and Congress need your willingness to serve. Our country needs your passion and your purpose to represent the people, to be a voice that might not be heard otherwise.

Losing is hard. But after some reflection, downtime and evaluation, I hope my friends who ran and weren’t elected will run again. Maybe there’s a different office that better fits your skill set? Find out. Don’t stop now. It takes courage to run for office. You are courageous. Do it again.

If the timing isn’t right for another run at public office, cast a wider net. Take someone who worked as a volunteer on your campaign or someone you see demonstrating leadership in your community to lunch and ask them to consider running in the future. If not them, who?

Two and half years ago, five of the six seats on our local city council were open. I felt a tug to run. I sought guidance from current and past community leaders. I learned I didn’t need anyone’s permission to run for public office, but I needed to know why I wanted to run and why the time was now. More than anything, I felt a need to serve and give back to my community. I was elected to a four-year term.

Since being elected, I’ve learned the closer you serve to the people, the more you hear from them. In a town of 1,000 people, public service is amplified. You’re always on call -- and I love it. I care about and research topics and issues I would have never known or even known to care about if I hadn’t run and was willing to serve. I’m a better listener and a more engaged citizen because of my public service.

For those of you who didn’t pull out a win in recent elections, job well done and keep going. For those of you elated in victory, job well done and keep going. The real work begins. Engage with your constituents. Get to know them, their families and their professions. Encourage others to define their issues and run for office. This is America, and we need more strong, engaged, principled voices willing to not just take a stand in a small circle of friends or rant on Facebook but to run for office.

Thank you to my friends who ran for office this fall and encouraged me in my public service by their example. Thank you to my friends who spent any free time the past few months volunteering and working on campaigns they deeply cared about. I admire you. You are difference makers for our cities, counties, legislatures, Congress and country. Keep going.

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