How to Run for Local Office

“Never miss the ham breakfast or the chili supper,” says Nicole Galloway, the state auditor of Missouri, a position she was appointed to after serving as treasurer of Boone County. Months before you file your candidacy with the local elections office, get out and meet as many voters, elected officials and party representatives as you can. Tell them about your vision, but don’t just talk at them. “Spend a lot of time listening,” Galloway says.

Ninety percent of the 500,000 or so elected offices in the United States are held by white people, and men occupy 71 percent of those seats. If you don’t see someone who looks like you on your school board or City Council, it does not mean that you don’t belong there or that you cannot win. Be bold, says Galloway, who at 34 is the youngest woman ever to serve in statewide office in Missouri. “Instead of asking yourself, ‘Can I do this?’ ask, ‘Why not?’ ”

You will need to speak in public and should do so at every opportunity. Still, extroversion is not a requirement. “Shy people can run for office, too,” Galloway says. Rehearse a speech until you can stand up and say something articulate, maybe even inspiring, at a moment’s notice. Research your opponents, but dwell more on your own message. Don’t be intimidated by journalists; think of them as conduits to your constituency. You might be considering elected office because you are angry with those in power. Indignation can be a motivator to run but not to govern. “If you win,” Galloway says, “you’ll need more than anger to keep you going.”

(Excerpted from New York Times Magazine 3/31/17)