Sly: Want to run for office? Prepare now

June 19, 2010 

If you are thinking about running for office in November or beyond, I urge to start doing something right now -- begin attending the meetings of the agency you're interested in serving.

This summer is particularly important, because virtually every governmental entity is wrestling with its budget.

And if you're elected to a council or board, you'll be dealing with budgets -- not just simple household ones but very complex ones.

The agenda for Monday night's Modesto City Schools board meeting is two inches thick. One hundred and seventy-one pages of that is the proposed budget for 2010-11. And that doesn't include lots of explainers. It's mostly figures and lots of acronyms -- things that I doubt even an accounting major would understand.

This also is a good time to plan to attend a free candidate workshop, which will be July 10 at the Salida library (which the county folks prefer we refer to by its full name, the Stanislaus County- Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library.)

The Bee has been a co-sponsor of these workshops for many years. The Modesto Chamber of Commerce has a key role, as do people with lots of experience in Democratic and Republican circles. Everyone donates their time to put this together, in hopes of helping people understand what's involved in running for office and how to do it effectively. The speakers represent both parties and a variety of backgrounds.

Advance registration is strongly recommended for the 9 a.m. to noon workshop. At February's workshop, we had twice as many people show up as had registered and ran out of free materials. To sign up, contact the Modesto Chamber of Commerce at 577-5757 or chamberassistant@modchamber.org.

I've been at The Bee for nearly 37 years now. In my early years as a reporter I did a lot of stories -- too many, it seemed -- on "first women." As in the first woman elected to this or appointed to that, doing this or doing that. I'm sure the fact that I'm a woman and was a rookie contributed to the number of such assignments that fell to me. My thought over the years is that women truly will have made progress when our advancements are no longer news.

That said, women-firsts have been in the news this month because of Meg Whitman's selection as the Republican nominee for governor and because two women -- Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorini -- are competing for one of our U.S. Senate seats.

Mulling that over, it occurred to me that by the end of the year, it's very likely that two of the three Assembly members from Stanislaus County will be women.

Incumbent Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, represents a slice of the West Side, plus all of Merced County and part of San Joaquin County. And Kristin Olsen of Modesto won the Republican primary in the 25th Assembly District, where there's no Democrat on the ballot for November, so she's likely to be represent east Modesto and the Oakdale area. Three of the six candidates in that 25th Assembly District race were women.

No one made a big deal of it. I consider that to be progress.

Public agencies aren't doing much hiring these days, so it will be some time before the pension reforms, such as raising the retirement age, start affecting real live people.

One of the first to feel the impact locally will be Dave Cogdill, who will go to work at the first of the year as Stanislaus County assessor.

Sly is editor of The Bee's Opinions pages. Contact her at jsly@modbee.com or 578-2317.

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