Whether you are a business owner or a politician, longevity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you gain more experience with every passing year and feel more comfortable in your role. On the other hand, as you become familiar with the ebb and flow of either your business or election cycle, you may take more risks and also may be less tolerant to criticism. It’s easy to get complacent, dismissing complaints and doubling down on what you believe are good ideas.
I was thinking about these parallels this morning, for a few reasons. We are nearing the end of a primary election cycle, and that’s when the civic swords come out. Criticism of politicians can be brutal and unforgiving, even in (or especially in) small cities where people are earning little pay (the exception being the mayor’s job in “strong mayor” forms of government) for the big decisions they are asked to make. And the longer you are in office, the worse it gets. I remember one local longtime (and now retired) official telling me that it’s tough to retain your popularity after two terms, because it gives constituents that much longer to find fault with you.
After nearly 12 years covering city government in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, I have the deepest respect for all those who run for office, even if I may not personally agree with some of their decisions or viewpoints. Despite what some voters may think, these office holders and candidates — in my experience — have a true passion for their communities and believe they are doing their best to serve their constituents — even if their approaches are markedly different.
I grew up in Ellensburg, Wash., where my dad served as mayor in the early 1960s. While I was very young at the time, I heard stories later about him receiving late-night phone calls from angry residents complaining about the local creek flooding their yards, which the mayor himself was expected to address.
Now, let’s shift to the business parallel of the equation. On a grander scale, the founders of many large companies that are household names today have become increasingly subject to criticism over the years. Local business owners are not immune to this either, especially if they have any type of community visibility. I’m going to use myself as an example. Like many who own small businesses, I operate on very thin margins and in fact often take little or no salary. Yet, I — along with many of my fellow entrepreneurs — are passionate about what we do so continue the work, in the belief that eventually the balance sheet will reflect our sweat equity.
Certainly, not everyone agrees with the decisions I make or why I make them. And that’s OK by me. Because in the final analysis, whether you are a business owner or a politician, you should welcome both praise and criticism. I’ve found that the former keeps me going during the challenging times, while the latter keeps me humble and always striving to do better.
Speaking of politics, we have worked hard in the past few months to compile a range of local election resources for the primary election — from campaign fundraising reports to candidate profiles — and those can be found on our Election 2021 page here.
We will continue this into the general election, with the goal of ensuring that voters can make an informed decision in November.
And if you have not done so, please consider supporting our work financially. It’s easy to do online (or we accept checks via U.S. Mail) and you can choose any regular amount that works for you. (To make a one-time donation, click here.)
Teresa Wippel, Publisher