How to Run for City Council

March 21, 2013

Members of a city council have the power to make decisions that implement changes in their communities. However, getting elected to a city council can be difficult because many of them are run by old guards. Here are few steps people can follow to get themselves elected to city councils and make a contribution to their communities.

• Research elected positions that are going to be vacant in the next elections such as mayor, city trustee or councilperson.
• Determine which position to run for and where one stands a good chance of winning.
• Know other candidates, as you will be running against them and maybe serving with them.
• Get endorsements from influential figures and other reputable local people as early as possible.
• Do some homework. Research the history of the city, its demographics, action of predecessors and current events. Be prepared for formal and informal interviews.
• Attend school board meetings and other meetings that discuss issues affecting the council. Before establishing a campaign platform, get information about the council by reading local dailies and talking to locals. Find out the issues that concern individuals within the locality.
• People running for council seats should understand that their lives will be on the limelight and understand the ramifications of such situations. They should discuss their decisions with family members because their lives will also be radically altered.
• Practice public speaking. Practice speaking in front of large and potentially hostile crowds. Ensure the wardrobe and grooming habits fit the slate of a public officer. If possible, hire a voice coach and PR consultant because candidates may be required to speak in front of cameras. The image portrayed should show professional competence.
• Hold a fund raising event to raise money needed in the campaign.
• Develop a thick skin. However, be open to constructive criticism. Pride and arrogance aren’t the best things to take to a campaign.
• Candidates and their spouses should have a clean record personally, financially, professionally and legally. Get a professional handler to do vetting before opponents do it, and they will.
• Approach the possible electorate. Candidates have to sell themselves to a lot of people on how they will effect change. Consider how to stand out in a campaign and sell what one has that other candidates do not have.
• Ask some of the locals to volunteer their time on the campaign. Divide the city or state into precincts with captains for each. The block captains should coordinate door-to-door canvassing to ask for votes. Commit to campaigning in critical precincts.
• Create a platform and focus campaigns on one or two keys issues for voters to identify with the candidature. Promote the initiatives in all the campaigns.
• Create a campaign slogan. The slogan should be short, catchy and easy for people to remember. Advertise the slogan by printing it on campaign materials such as t-shirts brochures and bumper stickers. These items should be made available at the campaign headquarters or walk door-to-door and distribute them. Ask friends and family to distribute the campaign items in their workplaces and other locations.
• Submit a petition with the required number of signatures.
• Develop materials that will be handed out or distributed while canvassing for votes.
• Establish a web presence and use the platform to discuss issues particularly to younger constituents.
• Undertake campaigns door-to-door or in other locations with a lot of foot traffic.
• Create signs for supporters to stick on their windows and display on lawns.
• On the eve of election, rally volunteers to remind people to go out and vote on the Election Day.
• Engage the media. Call the media when there is a story to contribute on.
• Candidates should surround themselves with well-educated advisers with a good record of accomplishment. The advisers shouldn’t be connected to suspicious business activities.
• Do not run a one-issue campaign because this will eventually bore the electorate.
• Do not underestimate the effect of volunteers.

Once elected, be modest in celebration and take time to thank everyone who made the campaign a success. Congratulate opponents and reiterate the promises made during the campaign.

Category: Offices

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