Many of our readers may know that I have spent the last couple of years becoming increasingly involved in the local political scene. I have always enjoyed politics, at every level. Often, I have found myself working actively on someone's campaign when an election year rolls around and it has blessed me with many good connections in Arkansas. Several of those I have volunteered for in the past began encouraging me awhile back to jump in and try my hand at the political game.
A little background here: I have lived all but 18 months of my life here in Searcy and have recently become concerned about the type of leadership at City Hall. So, once we bought our house here and I knew which Ward (municipal equivalent to a congressional district) we would be living in I decided to run for Alderman (municipal version of a congressman).
Being the candidate is a very different feeling from being a campaign volunteer. There is a vulnerability that comes with asking people to vote for you. This is especially true on election day when you find yourself at te mercy of people walking into the voting booth to make their choice. I happened to be running against perhaps the toughest opponent in the county. Dale English is a well-known, 24 year veteran of the City Council. He has literally been and Alderman since I was born! I knew I drew a tough bull, but I was ready to give it a shot.
Technically the "campaign season" is a few months long, but actually running for office begins almost 18 months before the day of the vote. There are party meetings, get-togethers with the influential local politicians, fish frys, etc. By the time the "season" rolls around, there isn't much energy left for door-knocking or passing out cards. But that is actually my favorite part! I loved meeting people and talking about local issues and concerns.
It would be easy for me to go on here feeling sorry for all the work it is to run for office. But I chose to do it. The fact of the matter is, it is more work for those who didn't chose to run--my family.
Don't misunderstand, I had the full support of Nicki, and by extension, the kids, but there is still the toll of daddy being preoccupied. It became increasingly difficult for me to spend all that time campaigning, with Nicki staying home to juggle obligations and children. you have to remember, I came from a home with what I thought was the most obvious example of selflessness--my father.
But Nicki never seemed to doubt my decision or intentions, though I sometimes second-guessed myself. She pushed me on, even campaigned with me from time to time. She encouraged me to make a better life for our family and for other families by bettering a community that wasn't her native home. I will never forget her help and dedication.
As I said, I second-guessed myself a lot. I wondered if it was selfish of me to dedicate myself to something like this. When the day finally arrived, Nicki continued her steadfast support by standing in the cold rain at our local polling site to hold my sign, pass out my cards, and make one final push for votes.
I came up short, unfortunately, but I was encouraged by the support of my community. I had several ask if I would be running again and many encouraged me to do so. I have reservations about that idea because I hate the toll it takes on my time and family. But just the other night I realized something. I was tucking Anna-Kate in for the night and she gave me a HUGE hug and told me she loved me. I realized that two things; first, losing didn't matter. My kids still think I am a great dad, and my wife is proud of me. Second, even though campaigning can separate me from the family sometimes, it is not really selfish at all. My dad was adamant about giving his kids the best life he could and he worked hard at it. So if I am working to make the city we call home better for my family, what can be wrong with that? At the end of the day, when I look in their eyes, I have to be able to say with honesty and confidence that I have done evereything possible to make this a good place to live. Fighting for a better local government is my way of doing that.
As fathers, we appreciate the support of our family in every endeavor. I know I have appreciated the support of mine, even when I was unsure myself. They believed in me and pushed me forward with encouragement and love. I think I may run again. (why not, I have a ton of yard signs left over) When I run, I have a confidence that is rare among many political hopefuls, the full support and confidence of a beautiful wife, and loving, affectionate children.