In the coming months, Tempe City Council candidates will be making the rounds, collecting signatures, raising money for their campaigns, and participating in forums to compete for your vote. But what qualifies a candidate to serve on the Council? What should you be looking for in terms of background and experience? Are there life experiences and career expertise that transfer to effective council participation? Should incumbents get another chance? What matters?
Most City Council candidates aspire to advocate on your behalf while serving in elected office. But do they know what that will entail? Some candidates are incumbents, so it is possible to evaluate their service to explore how well they’ve represented you and your expectations. Candidates new on the scene sometimes have a tougher time persuading the public to consider them.
Incumbency alone is not sufficient reason to capture your vote. If an incumbent Council member has demonstrated character and good judgment while on Council, if an incumbent has shown leadership, made recommendations for well-supported change in the community, and has been able to build consensus through effective dialogue with council colleagues, those are good reasons for a vote of confidence for another term. When you have an incumbent candidate before you, ask for concrete examples of how he or she has conducted themselves in some of these ways. Ask others in the community as well. Be sure you’re satisfied that Tempe has been well-served by their service. It matters.
It pays to ask newer candidates about their real-life and career experience, especially how they got to know the Tempe community and where they seek information and guidance. It’s more than a “common sense” role, though sometimes that comes into play. The City of Tempe has a fine professional staff, but the City Manager is supposed to take policy direction from a well-informed, well-equipped City Council. And that City Council is supposed to hold the City Manager and his staff accountable for implementation and budget performance. Transferable experience that would enable a new City Council member to be effective matters.
And know this about Jennifer Adams: Her experience at the City of Tempe is invaluable and she has the advocacy skills to build consensus. When you meet her, shake her hand and ask her for specifics about how she served the community; she has answers that matter. She’s carried out initiatives within departments under her management to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility costs and to reduce staff labor costs. Through her organizational development skills, Adams has trained and worked with staff to identify improved efficiencies that result in costs savings to the City.
While doing so, Jennifer has been chosen to represent staff on City Employee Councils, and has received honors from her employees and peers. Being respected and deemed worthy is a strong recommendation, especially when it comes from the very people you work with or supervise. It matters.
Twenty-nine years at the City of Tempe, managing people, learning the deep details of things like city social services, crisis support, streets management, and how public facilities efficiency savings can benefit the community also matters. Jennifer Adams can use this experience and these skills to build consensus on Council for a well-examined long-range budget, for more community involvement in decision-making to avoid expensive errors, to encourage local businesses to engage with our neighborhoods to create community, and to ensure that our infrastructure…police, fire, parks, streets and waterlines…are robust and have a long-term plan for sustainability. Adams promises to make data-driven, community-based decisions and to work with Council colleagues to develop a more strategic approach to City governance. That matters a great deal.
When weighing how to cast your vote for City Council, be sure to consider the background and experience of the candidates, incumbent or not. Choose someone whose people skills will help to craft policy with other Council members and who is able to hold staff accountable because she knows how things get done at City Hall and knows the right questions to ask. It matters.
You’ll have a chance to learn more about the other candidates in the coming months. Be sure to ask them tough questions before casting your vote because who you choose matters.