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It’s never too early to get ready for a trip

At last week’s special meeting of the three commissioners, someone in the audience said something like this to another about this year’s elections:
‘The voters always get excited about a presidential election. They don’t stop to think about how important the local officeholders are and how close their actions affect us. These commissioners and council members can make a real difference in our lives. We ought to pay as close attention to these races as we do the presidential races.’
How true.
This year the voters will elect several of their neighbors to office, including a sheriff, but interest may lag because there won’t be a presidential or governor’s race. There is, however, usually a lot of interest in the sheriff’s race, and there’s no reason to think that will be different this year. Incumbent Democrat Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick will likely run for a second four-year term.
That’s a popular race because whoever is elected sheriff holds the top job on the street regarding local law enforcement. And most everyone has an idea of whom they would rather answer to if pulled over for a traffic violation ‘ or worse.
What someone may not know, though, is how important some of the other positions can be. For instance, do you know how much of your money ‘ property tax dollars, state dollars, riverboat dollars ‘ passes through the auditor’s office in a year’s time? In 2005, that amounted to more than $82 million. And that $82 million amounts to $2,342 for each of the estimated 35,000 men, women and children who live in Harrison County. Suffice it to say, if you had that much money in your billfold, you’d guard it carefully. Your vote does count; in this race, it’s worth $2,342.
Voters also have some choices in the upcoming election for representatives in the executive and legislative branches of local government, the commissioners and the council. One commissioner and four district council members will be elected.
So, you couldn’t care less? Politics don’t affect you, right? Uh, remember that $82 million?
The representatives you and your neighbors choose to put in office will decide how and how much of that money gets used to benefit you or someone else and in what ways. It’s up to you to decide how you want to spend your $2,342 and elect the person who most likely will see things your way and invest accordingly.
For instance, you drive a school bus, so it’s of great importance to you that some narrow roads are widened so there’s room to pass an oncoming vehicle, and brush is cut back so you can see ahead. Also, you’d like to see those big, ragged potholes get filled so you don’t hit one and bounce off the road. You want to vote for a candidate for commissioner who knows a thing or two about road maintenance and cares about your safety. And you want to vote for a council member who supports funding for road improvements so your commissioner can fix a reasonable number of problems each year.
But don’t get carried away with the road thing, because there’s a lot more to local government than that. There are parks and swimming pools that need maintaining, police cruisers and fire trucks that need replacing, dogs that need spaying or neutering, 4-H buildings that need building, and, well, you get the picture.
So add up the things you think are most important to improve the quality of life in Harrison County and begin now to study the issues. This is an election year, and you’ll be glad you’re prepared when it’s time to make that trip to the polls.
Don’t just be a voter. Be an informed voter.