Elected officials work for us. What criteria should we use to hire them?

September 5, 2022 5:45 am

On this Labor Day, let us pause and embrace the important role we have to hire the right elected officials who have the right character, values, qualifications and commitment to get the job done in a stellar and honorable way at every level of government (photo by Manjurul/iStock Images).

As we pause this Labor Day, we should reflect on what the holiday means and remember that elected officials in our city, county, state, the U.S. Senate, and House of Representatives work for us, the people.

We are the employer.

What guide or criteria should we use to determine who we should hire or rehire with our vote?

In the last eight weeks leading up to the midterm elections, we will be bombarded by applicants.

In addition to the many political messages dominating the airwaves — and in print and online media — many aspiring candidates will be making the rounds at public gatherings, political forums and other venues.

But beware. Shaking hands, kissing babies and making a few remarks should not be considered anything more than an initial application.

Most of us will have a lot of decisions to make about who we want to represent us in almost every level of our government.

For example: In Missouri we have Republican Eric Schmitt, Democrat Trudy Bush Valentine, Libertarian Jonathan Dine and Constitution Party Paul Venable being interviewed for the job of U.S. Senator.

All of the seats for the U.S. House of Representatives in Missouri are up for hire.

All 163 seats in the Missouri House, and half the 34 seats in the Missouri Senate, are on the ballot.

While there are unique roles and responsibilities associated with each elective office, there are certain basic and prerequisite qualifications that they hold in common.

No doubt, voters have things they look for and require of someone they are going to vote for (hire). But here are a few qualifications that we should want in anyone seeking to be hired to lead and represent the interest of ourselves, family, community, state and nation.

First and foremost, does the candidate believe in America, our form of democracy and how it should function at the national, state and local level?

Does the candidate fully understand and embrace the responsibilities of the office they seek?

In carrying out the roles and responsibilities of the office, will the candidate perform their duties in a way that is consistent with — and promote — the stability and best results for the constituency the office represents?

When it comes to values, principles and ethics, does the candidate have a history and  reputation of being honest and functioning with high integrity, have a communication style that is unifying rather than divisive, and work in a collaborative way to achieve progress in solving issues?

Those should be minimum requirements to even be considered for office.

If a candidate has held the job before, and is seeking to be rehired, there is another set of questions to be asked.

What is their record of working and voting on the issues you care about? What successes have they had; what legislation have they sponsored, supported, and passed? Have they communicated with you while they held the job? What are they proposing to do about the issues that are important to you?

For a candidate seeking public office for the first time, it is fair to ask other questions. Why are they seeking office? What is their life or professional experiences that qualifies them to seek it? What have they done to impact the lives of others, their community and the governmental office they want to represent?

As much as we may not like or see ourselves as being employers, as much as we may feel that we are already overburden with the demands of trying to keep our personal lives together and moving forward, we must take the midterm elections before us just as seriously, perhaps more seriously, than we have taken any elections.

We have applicants for important elective offices across every level of government who have divergent views, experiences and perspectives on how the role and responsibilities of the offices they seek should be carried out.

There are so many defining issues before us — election integrity, voting rights, sensible gun control, climate change, public education, immigration, the rule of law, law and order, health care access and others — that the policy decisions made will determine the quality of life in America in the near and long term.

Given these challenges along with the threats we face at every level of government in this democratic republic, we the public — the people — must rise and assume a more active and engaged role as the employer of elective government and hold who we hire accountable.

On this Labor Day, let us pause and embrace the important role we have to hire the right elected officials who have the right character, values, qualifications and commitment to get the job done in a stellar and honorable way at every level of government.

It is not enough to hire the right mayor, county executive, state senator or representative, governor, the right U.S. Senator or member of Congress. We need to hold them accountable to protect and promote a healthy, vibrant and good America across the board.

Our future well-being as a nation, as citizens, depends on it.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.