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What your May 2020 local ballot will look like will begin taking shape next week. What if your name were on it?

Local schools, towns and cities are all governed by boards you elect. The members of those boards are not that different from you – they live where you live and may well run into you at work or in the grocery store aisles. What put them on the city council or school board was that they care about the future of your community.

If you share that interest, maybe it’s your turn to seek local office.

We often use this editorial space to encourage residents of Navarro County to get involved in our area’s civic life, whether that be in the local schools, city elections or the county at large. Seeking elected office is just another way you can help fulfill your civic duties as an American. But research shows just 2% of Americans have ever run for public office at any level.

So let’s change that.

Most municipal and school boards have pretty simple qualifications for who can run, and they don’t require a lot of formal training or connections. They boil down to four things:

• Live in Texas for at least a year before the filing deadline

• Live in the town or city ward or school district for at least six months before the filing deadline

• Be at least 18 years old

• Be a registered voter

In other words, you don't have to know everything or be wealthy to run for office. Just be willing to accept help and learn as you go.

If you’re already happy with how your local government is being managed, there might still be reason for you to seek a seat on the school board or municipal council.

One, the folks on your local board can’t fill the office forever. You might be surprised at how difficult it can be for board members to find someone to take their place when they are ready to pass the baton. They may be praying for someone like you to turn up – ask them and see.

Two, first-time candidates rarely achieve the office they seek, for a variety of reasons. Inexperience with running a campaign for local office is just one of those reasons, but it’s one you can head off now. At the very least, attend a few board meetings and talk to your current elected officials about what they do and how they got elected.

By the way, volunteering on the board of a local nonprofit or church is another way to gain experience that would prepare you for elected office, and such organizations are almost always looking for new hands on deck. Consider stepping up as a board member at an organization whose mission you care about.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be reporting the specific filing requirements and deadlines for local governing bodies with positions up for election this year. Keep an eye out for the ones that interest you and consider whether your name ought to be the next one on the ballot.

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