Get to know all you can about your community, municipal structure and charter (if any). This includes municipal departments, staff, the local school system and quasimunicipal organizations, such as regional water and sewer districts and solid-waste authorities.
You may have run for office as an individual. You may have advocated for municipal change. But you are part of a larger board now, part of a well-established organization. To get the best results, cooperation is essential.
It is common for new officials to underestimate how long it takes to prepare for meetings and workshops, and even to get ready for conversations with groups of citizens or business owners. Advance preparation will make you more confident and effective. Be ethical and open. You may be thinking, “Of course, I will do that!” But, circumstances may arise presenting potential conflicts of interest that you did not foresee. Challenges may surface that you or your board may be tempted to gloss over. Being 100% ethical, and as open as possible, prevents larger problems from developing.
4. Be ethical and open
You may be thinking, “Of course, I will do that!” But, circumstances may arise presenting potential conflicts of interest that you did not foresee. Challenges may surface that you or your board may be tempted to gloss over. Being 100% ethical, and as open as possible, prevents larger problems from developing.
5. Follow the money
You will quickly come to realize that money and finances will become your most important area of focus. You will need to weigh the importance of providing, or expanding, municipal services versus the desire to keep fees and taxes as low as possible.
6. Promise little
Sometimes, elected officials campaign on a promise or series of promises. Or, upon being elected, they make promises about what they will achieve while in office. This may include promises to campaign supporters, friends and relatives. Be careful with promises.
7. Meetings matter
You will be judged by your actions at public and community meetings. Practice vigilant selfawareness. How did you look? What did you say? Did you listen as well as speak? Even your dearest friends will view you differently now that you are on the “other side” of the municipal dais.
8. Be judicious
Some of your duties include acting in a judicial capacity – as a hearing examiner or as a judge on matters such as business license applications and building requests. Maintaining impartiality is crucial in this role.
9. Honor the organization
Work through the system. If your town or city employs a manager, respect that role. Do the same with department heads. This is especially true with personnel matters. Your major areas of focus should be setting municipal policy and budget priorities, not managing people or details.
10. Be resourceful
Use the considerable resources at your disposal. Encourage your staff to do the same. Of course, the Maine Municipal Association tops this list! Other valuable sources of information include: state and federal government agencies and officials; municipal colleagues throughout the state; and, colleges and community colleges in your region, among others.