As many of you know, I began preparing for my Marvin retirement several months ago. Just as I was getting ready to 'ride-off into the sunset', Mr. Christopher Smith, candidate for Marvin Mayor, asked if we could meet
If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet Chris Smith, you can read more about him by
following the links below:
Before I describe what we talked about during this meeting, allow me to tell you how Chris Smith and I met, and how we've become acquainted with each other over the past year:
In 2018, around the time of the Village shut-down, Chris Smith's long interest in Marvin politics intensified, and he became a regular attendee at Village Council meetings.
In February 2019, Chris applied for a vacant position on the Marvin Planning Board and introduced himself to all five Council members. He expressed an interest in running for a position on Marvin’s Council and we agreed to meet occasionally, to discuss Village business. Chris made a point of meeting all Council member in order to get well-rounded exposure to varying perspectives, with regard to Village issues and events.
In April 2019, Chris Smith confirmed his intention to run for Marvin Mayor. He spoke to all of the Council members about his intentions, including Mayor Pollino. His respectful, forthright and professional approach was refreshing, honorable, respectful and noble. Chris Smith also asked whether I intended to run. However, rather than run for office, I held out hope community activism, over the past year, would motivate a few well-intentioned, independent, candidates to run for office. I felt like it might be a good time to step aside to make room for experienced, principled and qualified candidates.
In August 2019, Chris Smith and I met again. By this time, registration for the upcoming election had closed. Three Marvin residents had registered to run for three Marvin seats. This meant each candidate would be running 'unopposed' (without competition for their respective seat in office). I didn’t know much about the candidates for Council, except that they were friends of Mayor Pollino, Councilwoman Vandenberg, and Planning Board members, Michael Lavelle and John Jones. Here are the names of the candidates on the ballot:
Candidate for Marvin Mayor
Mr. Chris Smith, (Marvin Creek)
Candidates for Marvin Council
Mr. Jamie Lein, (Firethorne)
Mr. Robert (Bob) Marcolese, (Heritage Oaks, adj. to Firethorne)
Since August 2019, Chris Smith had been getting to know the candidates for Council. He had been trying to get acquainted with their reasons for running, their goals and objectives, their past Village involvement, their familiarity with issues, their knowledge of municipal government, and their general inclination for public office. Chris also continued to attend Council meetings in order to better understand different issues, evaluate various dynamics and consider what solutions might work to improve the state of Village government.
On or about October 20
In the weeks before this election, fellow citizens and voters like myself were dismayed at the lack of outreach and written information about the Council candidates and their platforms.
A handful of residents had asked me whether they could write-in my name for the position. I was honored by the suggestion and their votes of confidence. However, I was not convinced I could provide citizens with the service they deserve, under current Village conditions.
That said, I could sense the frustration among those who take pride in being attentive to Village politics. I could see residents felt ignored. It seemed as though current candidates for council believed they didn't need to provide Marvin voters (i.e. their prospective employers) with any information about their candidate platforms, or their motivations for running, because, after all, they are 'sure things' and running for office 'unopposed'. My suspicions were confirmed when learned candidates failed to submit answers to any newspaper questionnaires, and candidates for council also failed to respond to Mr. Giebel's traditional biennial Marvin Candidate Survey. Something about all of this didn't sit right with me. Candidates seeking almost any other position of employment, usually demonstrate respect for a prospective employer by providing information about their credentials and their suitability for the position -- regardless of whether, or not, there are other candidates in the running. Instead, our candidates for Marvin Council appeared comfortable with the concept of (a) taking citizens for granted; (b) taking their votes for granted; (c) the receipt of a public office for granted. I must admit, this played a role in my decision to accept write-in votes.
During the week of October 25
In and around this time, Chris Smith approached me with a real sense of conviction. He said he had given it a lot of thought and asked me to consider running as a write-in candidate for Marvin Council. Because I don't want to mischaracterize any of his intentions, I asked Chris to authorize the distribution of his correspondence, below. It is an assessment, written by Chris Smith, based on observations and information he independently gathered over the past eighteen months:
I’m Chris Smith, candidate for Marvin Mayor. I agree that this election
represents a critical moment in Marvin’s continued evolution, and one that
needs your input to ensure a unified vision around transparency, accountability,
and service to our community.
That’s why I’d ask that you write in Mary Shkut’s name for Village Council.
She has the experience, leadership, perspective and diversity we need on our
I’ve been actively engaged in council activities for a long time and currently
serve on the Village Planning Board. I’ve gotten to know the current council
members, the issues we’re facing, and what kind of leadership is needed to
tackle those issues in an effective and thoughtful manner. I think writing down
Mary’s name to remain on the council is the right thing to do.
Call me if you’d like to discuss my candidacy or hear my point of view on what
an effective village council would look like. 402-707-5201
I was honored and a little speechless by Mr. Smith's letter -- to say the least! Moreover, I was moved by his principles! It’s incredibly rare to encounter individuals who can express this type of leadership and clarity with such conviction. But what continues to leave and impression, is Chris’s willingness to relinquish political expediency in order to support something he believes is best for the Village. This is the hallmark of courageous, principled leadership. Unfortunately, this has been a difficult trait to find in recent Marvin leaders. And now, more than ever before, Marvin needs selfless, resilient, principled leadership. Based on this exhibit alone, I urge every voter to support Chris Smith's candidacy for Mayor.
...So, despite the fact that I had already begun dreaming of my retirement, and sipping Mai Tai’s on a beach, Chris Smith presented me with a conundrum. He presented hope that public service, and honorable governance might still be attainable in Marvin… Ultimately, it became too difficult for me to refuse the compelling nature of this new possibility.
In sum, three factors lead me to accept write-in votes:
(1) The faith fellow citizens have had in me and their incredibly generous support.
(2) The thought of providing voters with a choice, alongside candidates who didn't appear
compelled to earn the citizen's vote.
(3) Chris Smith's strength of character, his outlook on public service, and the promise of a new brand of Village leadership.
If nothing else, I hope my small presence in the race might, at least, provide voters with a transparent platform to consider, and another council leadership choice, before they cast their democratic vote tomorrow.
Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power
over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators
and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Regardless of what happens, I am happy that I took part!
My fondest memories on the Council are those times I truly felt I was serving all of you!
Fondly and sincerely,