How to Jumpstart a Career in Local Politics

How to Jumpstart a Career in Local Politics
Female reporter at press conference, writing notes, holding microphone

A career in local politics is significantly less glitzy than other broader political roles. It can be a lot less exciting, and may hardly ever get national news coverage. However, a local politician is still an important member of society. They make decisions that impact the lives of their voters directly. And they’re also a lot more visible and accessible to their voters. Unlike Senate or Congress elections, local elections don’t require you to belong to a political party or school of thought. This is a marked difference from politics like the presidential election, which often increases the divisiveness in American society. If you feel you have what it takes to be an upstanding local politician, this blog will show you how.

Step #1: Learn About the Community and People You Represent

If you go to every town, city, and county in the United States, one thing will stand out glaringly. The majority of the population won’t even know who their current mayor is. You can imagine how much they know about representatives in a city council. You likely don’t know about both in your community either. While there’s nothing wrong with being apolitical, when you’re running for a local political office, the first step should be to educate yourself about the other players in the game.

And it’s not just your political opponents you should be learning about. You need to spend time among members of your community, trying to understand their needs. For example, your community might need access to better internet services, such as Spectrum in Maine. Or they could be demanding better school funding or even a new zoning policy. Rubbing shoulders with politicians and locals will help you understand both sides of the game. You’ll know what helps politicians win local elections, and you’ll also know what motivates locals to elect them.

Step #2: Make Sure You Have Visibility and an Audience

When you’re a private citizen, you can keep your opinion on politics and local issues to yourself with no harm done. However, when you’re actively looking to pursue a career in local politics, this will have to change. If elected, you can’t stay quiet in a room full of people talking about an issue that you know the most about. You need to voice your position, clear and loud. Not only does this clarify your stance to your colleagues, but also to your voters.

If you want to get elected, you need to ensure people in your community know you and what you stand for. In older times, this would mean a lot of grassroots canvassing. You’d be visiting homes and community centers, getting visibility, and allowing people to get to know you. However, the modern approach may be somewhat different. Social media offers a powerful tool to get your message out to geo-specified locations. Meaning you can ensure your potential voters can see exactly what your message is and how it is relevant to them. Just be sure to deliver your message in an appropriate and politically-correct way.

Step #3: Run for Office in Your Local Elections

If you’re getting attention from the locals, you may want to consider jumping from being a political advocate to being a political hopeful. In national or state-level politics everywhere, politicians have developed a reputation for earning a lot of money (both through legal and slightly shadier means. However, local politics rarely offer anything in the way of a large financial incentive. That means people who run for local offices are usually genuinely looking to bring about positive transformation in their community.

However, just because it doesn’t have many opportunities to make money doesn’t mean the race to local political office is going to be cheap. This is especially true when you’re trying to oust an incumbent that the local community is already comfortable with. That’s not to mention that the lack of real-world political experience can be a handicap. But if you watched the presidential debate 2020 you’ll know that public perception matters more than political experience. After all, if a former TV celebrity with little prior political experience can be the president, you can run for office too.