A couple of years ago, we put a clown on the cover of Union County Weekly. At the time, Indian Trail leadership was going through some inner turmoil.
After the council fired their town manager, Mayor Pro Tem David Cohn, who is arguably Union County’s most quotable man, famously said, “I’ve read on Facebook accounts where we are the clown council. We definitely look like clowns and I apologize.”
Things are much better in Indian Trail. The board works much better together and they have a town manager that everyone on the council respects.
So how do we avoid putting clowns in office? Here are some characteristics that clowns don’t have.
Research: Members of councils and commissions should be well-versed on the ins and outs of a community’s development ordinances, as well as small area plans. It’s not enough to know the zoning designations. Leaders should really try to understand the rationale that went into how staff and boards constructed current zoning codes and maps.
Staying updated: It’s one thing to understand how the town arrived at its current zoning, but it’s also important to keep tabs on changing attitudes within the community. Plans approved a few years ago can easily become outdated in fast-growing areas throughout the Charlotte region. Elected leaders should be tapped into the pulse of the community.
Communication: You can tell who rubber stamps their votes by how well a leader can convey the position of the board on any given topic. Leaders not only need to understand where the community stands on an issue, but they must also be able to explain why things are the way they are from a staff, board or community perspective.
Positive attitude: Clowns in literature and television live to make you laugh. Clowns in real life live to make you angry. Leaders have to go in with the mindset of serving the community. They must listen to criticism but not dwell on it to the point where they take it personally. You want people who are open to collaboration, not focused on jabbing their political foes.
Intelligence: You want people that are great at communication, but it doesn’t hurt to elect candidates that can look at a budget sheet without zoning out. I’ve seen some boards discuss an issue for well over an hour only for someone to raise their hand and ask a question that shows they’re not quite sure what planet they’re on.