Don Rogers: Here, you matter
Great. Just great. The front door at the Truckee Town Hall is locked and the candidate forum just began. The one where I’m supposed to be asking questions. I already was running late.
My phone is ringing, texts flying. Folks are wondering … Just making sure … That’s polite code for where in the … are you?
The show must go on — live and in person for the participants, virtual for the audience — and I’m living out a scene from “Broadcast News.” Well, I hope. In the scene running through my mind, the tape arrives just in time, the segment runs without an apparent hitch, smooth as can be so far as the audience is concerned.
That’s the happy outcome. I shake the glass door again. Yep, still locked.
Forum host Ted Owens is working through his “Hello and welcome, tonight we …” The script goes to the minute. I see the time stamps on my hard copy I’d printed out before coming over. At 6:08, Alex Hoeft of Moonshine Ink asks her question. Then it’s my turn. Rory O’Farrell at Tahoe Truckee Media runs a tight ship, with an exact schedule, no minutes extra for late-arriving dummies locked out at the front door.
Well, I think, there goes that late flurry of work to make the most of our three questions per set of candidates. The open-ended questions I proposed for my half, the squinted eyes and “how about this” replies, and recasting of sharper ones with Ink’s Mayumi Elegado and Alex at a table outside at the Drunken Monkey. I had a diet Pepsi, if that’s what you might be thinking.
We strategized and I began to panic while I watched my questions vanish into a mist and realized I would have to pull out something halfway cogent from my notes in about a minute once I got to the office on my way to Town Hall.
Sadly, what passes for brains rests in my fingers. I sat in awe of Alex and Mayumi sounding out these gems so articulately while I scribbled. I need a little time to turn my notes and memory into something written. Only then do I dare speak them aloud.
Which led directly to my current crisis. I’m late, locked out, the result of one of my many flaws: a sometimes crippling lack of confidence. We all have our holes in our swing, these things we just have to push through. All the worse when we let others down, though.
Someone has come. Thank the heavens! The click of the door, such relief, the dash upstairs. Ted has set the two candidates for the Truckee Town Council’s two-year term to their one-minute intros. Plenty of time. I trade smiles with Alex. No worries. We’ve got this. Of course.
I see a text from our editor, Brian Hamilton, watching from his computer screen out there, somewhere. Oh, I see you now.
How did it go?
Great! (I got in.)
SMALL TOWN MAGIC
Bigger city refugees, my wife and I were drawn in early, during our 20s, for a host of reasons, I think. The candidate forum symbolizes a big one, just the whole woolly, not so air brushed quality to it and the candidates, but all focused on the important stuff, what does matter.
Doors get locked maybe a little early, participants arrive a little late, people grow nervous before the camera. But then polish isn’t what counts, and it seems we’re more likely to understand this in smaller communities.
Some candidates are more eloquent than others, naturally. In our towns, leaders of world-class entities may sit shoulder to shoulder (socially distant for now) with folks from the more workaday parts of the community and grapple in the same ways with the same questions. Almost none ever exudes the slicked back, smooth, answer to everything nature of the professional politician we know so well in the higher reaches.
I thought about this as one younger candidate for council, who plainly had braved everything to run this gantlet, confessed as he looked around in the middle of an answer that there might be better choices for this office and he was just so glad such qualified rivals had turned up. He was only there because he loves his town, loves it.
I loved it. I’ve seen candidates like him before, quaking in their seats at first, blurting out all the honest things you are not supposed to say, go on to win their seats and then serve with distinction.
Maybe it’s the sense of possibility, as well as connection, that appeals so much to me about our little communities. We can do things. Wait, no. We have to do things. Who else will?
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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