by Forrest Whitman
First: Never run against a dog. Ol’ Woody mopped up the floor with me at our debate through his psychic dog interpreter. I never should have defended the city code enforcer.
Second: Ask first if you can run. My victorious opponent landed the old-guard oligarchs early. He sure knew who to ask first. As former Democratic County Chair I assumed Democrats, even if in the old guard, would be on my side. Wrong. Always ask first to hunt on private land or run for public office.
Third: Laugh at it when they dish out the sh*t. The third time I opened the local paper to see a half-page cartoon of me looking like a puppet or running my train off the cliff (I was once a railroad brakeman), I actually chuckled. Oh, and get used to it coming even when you’re hiding out with a beer in your favorite bar.
Fourth: Qualifications don’t matter. I was a two-term county commissioner, honored by the governor for water work, etc. My opponent was a business manager, but his chief qualification (always lauded in our reliably right-wing local press) was that he had run the annual turkey feast with his wife.
Fifth: Keep putting your vision out there. I kept talking bike lanes, affordable housing, better pay, more clean business, an art center, energy efficiency, rec center, human diversity and so on. That, even when the crowd only wanted to talk about potholes and lowering water rates.
Last: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Mayor is a two year, unpaid job. If I had won and my name did get emblazoned on a new public building, it would likely have been on the new restrooms. Enjoy life in the west outside of politics.
Note: Forrest Whitman actually did get 44.63% of the vote for mayor in his small western town. He predicts that as small towns become either tourist towns or education centers (with a mix of small business), human diversity will happen naturally. The key to the future in the small-town West: “newcomers” (people who have lived in town less than 20 years and may be known Democrats), along with the millennials. They’ve just got to vote.