New Leaders Making a Big Difference in TN
The old saying goes, “The best defense is a good offense.” That certainly rings true in politics. The last five years have been a busy time for the hundreds of community groups that have organized around our nation. Time and again they’ve found it necessary to defend our Constitution from attacks by officials who have been elected to lead our country.
Too often we are finding ourselves in the position of reacting to terrible policies that should never have seen the light of day in the first place. As long as our elected positions are filled with people that believe more government is the answer to our problems, we will continue to face these challenges in Congress, our state capitals, and our city councils.
It is time for local community groups to go on the offense. One of the most important things you can do to help our country get back on track is to identify new leaders for elected offices in your state and local government. The work of one local group in Tennessee demonstrates the impact that electing even a few new leaders can have on a community. Since 2010, five active members of Sumner United for Responsible Government have run for various local offices and all were victorious. Beyond just winning an election, these leaders have worked to positively change their local political environment.
After three of these new leaders were elected to the Board of Aldermen of Hendersonville, the Board went from giving rubber stamp approval to actively challenging spending proposals questioning deals with developers and working to increase transparency and public input at meetings. In Goodlettsville, electing one strong, principled new leader was enough to change the dynamics of the City Commission. When she was appointed Vice Mayor shortly after being elected she also challenged the direction the city was taking, began distributing government information to the community and sought more public involvement, effectively blunting the power of the “good ol’ boy” network that had been in place.
Seeing the initial success and impact these new leaders have had on their communities highlights the important role local groups can play in identifying good leaders and encouraging them to run for office. With more local elections coming up in 2014, Sumner United has already identified nine potential candidates and is looking for more.
The keys to successfully recruiting leaders are to make a plan and make it priority. Eric Stamper, the current President of Sumner United, meets bi-weekly with another member to discuss potential leaders- and they end the meetings with a list of specific action items. Additionally, the organization is taking steps to provide campaign training and resources to leaders and activists in the community, including an American Majority New Leaders Training near Nashville on October 12th.
In the conversations Eric has with people he would like to see run for office, he’s noticed that often the individual has already contemplated running, but Eric says, “The boost of confidence they get from knowing that someone else thinks they would be a good candidate, and would support them, gives them that extra push to jump in the ring.”
Eric is a New Leaders Project signer. The goals of the New Leaders Project are to encourage people to become local leaders, and ask more groups to identify and train new leadership within its ranks. But that won’t happen without you. Here are some simple steps you can follow to make identifying new leaders a priority in your community:
- Work with a partner: this provides motivation and a bigger network of people you can reach out to.
- Create lists: of the qualities you think a leader should have, and who you know with these qualities.
- Make maps, calendars and charts: map out your districts (and who lives in them), find the dates and deadlines for the next several election cycles, and get charts of recent election results.
- Vet potential leaders and start talking to them: before you approach someone about running for office, be sure that you can and will give them the support that they need take that big step.
- Help them: whether or not your group officially supports candidates, there are plenty of ways that you as an individual can help them. Volunteer, donate, and most of all help them learn how to run a successful campaign.
If you are serious about changing our country’s course of direction, you have to start in your community, today. We’ve seen a mayor and a state senator become a vice-presidential candidate and President of the United States in the course of just a few election cycles. The leaders you put on your school board and city council have a big impact on your life and the potential to change the course of our nation. Let’s work together on the New Leaders Project to identify new leaders and train them to win.