Local Views: Former councilman shares insight into what Janesville City Council candidates might face
Four Janesville City Council seats are open in the April elections, and as a former councilman, serving from 2000 to 2008, I’m often asked what is involved in running for and serving on the council. Being on the council easily becomes a part of your daily routine. Your commitment does not have to be overly time-consuming.
Occasionally, you’ll need to devote more time to your role, but, in general, it is very manageable. During my tenure, I maintained my priorities as it related to my daily activities—my family, my business and the council.
The council performs many duties—from addressing residents’ concerns to building and adopting an annual budget that balances the demand for city services with available funds.
Council members are expected to be fair, responsive and knowledgeable about a community’s needs and activities. They are entrusted to uphold the public interest because their decisions affect the entire community.
Members of the council meet on the second and fourth Mondays of every month and are generally assigned to additional committees that meet outside of regular council meetings. Your attendance may also be requested at other meetings and special events.
Several days prior to the actual council meetings, an agenda and supporting background materials are sent out for the council’s review. It is important to read this information and be ready to discuss the issues at the meeting. If you have any questions, city staff is always happy to provide additional information. Depending on the agenda item, it also helps to contact affected parties to get a better understanding of all sides of an issue. If you have an idea or an issue that needs to be addressed, you can start the process and city staff can provide any background information you may need.
The council interacts with many different individuals and groups of people—the city manager and staff, planning commission and the public. It is important to gather the facts and other information you need to make the best decisions you can. Be a good listener, ask questions, seek solutions and learn all sides of an issue before forming an opinion.
If you have the time and desire to serve your community, consider running for city council. I urge you to talk to your family, friends and employer. Consider their thoughts on supporting your decision. Ask them for help getting elected.
You’ll need help with circulating nomination papers to get the required 100 signatures to be listed on the ballot. You’ll also need help raising money for advertising and miscellaneous expenses related to your campaign. You’ll need to appoint a treasurer to maintain the documents required by the State Board of Elections. All of this may seem overwhelming; however, it is fairly straightforward to make it as easy as possible.
My city council experience was an enlightening one, and I felt privileged to be elected and re-elected to serve. Holding public office can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.
Craig DeGarmo of Janesville is a former city councilman and is president of DeGarmo Plumbing & Piping. Readers can contact him at 608-752-1391.