Over the next four years, the City of Piedmont will undertake major policy and construction initiatives. Having served on a past Council confronting similar issues, I can tell you community engagement by Council will be key to successful implementation of these changes and their acceptance by the community. But so will oversight and that takes more than just being a good listener. Here are some of the criteria I recommend for candidates for Council.
Vols not Pols: That’s self-explanatory and not a factor in this election. Piedmont relies on volunteers for many of the amenities our residents enjoy and that take a selfless giving of one’s time. A track record shows true commitment to putting in the effort needed at Council. That said, it’s best to have contested elections, especially this year, so first-time candidates add value.
Skill sets: City Council benefits from having members with diverse skill sets. Council members liaison not just with the commissions but also with staff and provide valuable interpretation of staff proposals to their Council colleagues. Construction/planning, finance, accounting, law — these are valuable backgrounds for City Council members to have.
“Lean in”: City Council is a volunteer position with no allotment of resources for members to do independent fact finding or outreach. That generally works fine in a small town like Piedmont if staff is responsive to inquiries from Council members and the public. Otherwise, staff can develop insular proposals that cause considerable consternation when announced to the public — the school officer, 801 lease and recent civic center housing proposals come to mind. There’s nothing wrong with a little drama but Council members need to run frequent reality checks with staff to ensure the public is being brought along.
Distribution: Piedmont is a small town and it’s easy to get to know one’s fellow residents, but it helps to have Council members from all over town.
And voters should also know they are likely electing their mayor six years from now. If Council holds to tradition, the candidate who gets the most votes for the two open seats in this election will be mayor in 2028, assuming they run again. So voters need to lean in as well.