For most Americans, much of what government does is in the abstract in the sense that it often has no direct bearing on their daily lives, and even the indirect effects are sometimes hard to distinguish.
That’s very true of national government and generally true of state government.
For that reason, you could argue local government plays a far more important role in our lives. The decisions made by our mayors, councilmen, aldermen or selectmen are those that we encounter every day. There’s nothing abstract about potholes or neighborhood crime or our children’s public school education.
That is why it seems counter-intuitive that our local elections produce small turnouts and limited fields of candidates when compared to state or national elections.
It is not uncommon for voter turnout in our municipal elections to be well below 50 percent, sometimes as low as 25 percent.
Every four years this paper urges citizens to vote in these important elections. This year will be no different.
But for now that’s another argument for another time.
Explaining why interest among voters is so low is difficult to grasp, but one legitimate factor is that the voting public doesn’t really have much of a choice to make in many of these races..
Friday is the deadline for candidates to qualify for mayor and aldermen/councilman/selectman races in the Golden Triangle, yet on the eve of this deadline, we are disappointed that so few public-minded citizens have stepped forward to serve in these important positions.
For four years, those who are serving in office have not lacked for criticism among the electorate. Nor have citizens been shy in sharing their view on how our local governments should — or should not — operate.
But when qualifying time rolls around, that criticism does not translate into candidates who are willing to act on their convictions instead of just talk about them.
In Columbus, Starkville and West Point, 11 of 19 races are uncontested as of Thursday morning, including Starkville Mayor. Only two of Starkville’s seven alderman positions have more than a single candidate. That’s true of three of six council seats in Columbus and two of five selectman seats in West Point.
In Caledonia, where all of its aldermen are selected at-large, there are six candidates running for five seats.
Taken as a whole, 19 of 27 available positions in these four local governments are occupied by incumbents.
These numbers appear to reflect a citizenry that is pleased with the way their communities are being governed.
If that’s not the case, there remains time for candidates to step forward.
The deadline for qualifying for office is Friday.
Competitive races are indicative of an engaged citizenry and make for better government. Iron sharpens iron, as the saying goes.
We are certain there are people in our community who are fit for office, whose contributions as office-holders will improve our communities.
Now is the time to step up.