Home > Grand Visioning, Planning > Local election: What do you look for in a candidate?

Local election: What do you look for in a candidate?



Election Year


Who’s voting? Who’s not?

2013 is an election year in the City of Traverse City. It’s an off-year, so low voter turnout is expected. As we highlighted previously, that presents an opportunity to demographics that don’t normally turn-out the vote, but with a bit of a bump can really impact the election.

This year, the 7 person City Commission could theoretically see a new majority of newly elected as three City Commissioner seats, as well as the mayoral seat, are open.

The commissioners whose terms are up are Mary Ann Moore, Mike Gillman, and Jody Bergman. The former two have expressed that they won’t be running and the latter is a probable to run as an incumbent. Like wise, the current mayor, Michael Estes, is expected to seek re-election.

It’s early, our minds are likely on how to take advantage of warming temps and longer daylight hours rather than fall elections. Still, as engaged citizens I’m curious what type of candidate you’re looking for or looking to avoid.

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What do you look for in a candidate?

What values, traits, experiences, skills, knowledge, personalities, walk-scores….do you look for in candidates for City Commission (or other local seats)?


I invite you to take moment and to leave a comment with your answer. For today’s post, comments will be published below in the comments field. As always, the comment policy is in effect.

I request that comments refrain from mentioning any individuals specifically. Comments with names will be approved with the name removed. There’s plenty of time to discuss the who later, but for now let’s focus on what you, the informed, engaged, and considerate voters, look for in local representation.

If you’re interested in running, here’s the simplified process for either Mayor or City Commissioner:

  1. Pick up nominating packets from the City Clerk’s Office at Governmental Center.
  2. Complete nominating petitions with ___ signatures.
  3. Complete other documentation.
  4. Turn in all forms by August 13, 2013 at 4-PM.
  5. Knock on a lot of doors.
  6. If you win, you start on November 11th.


What values, traits, experiences, skills, knowledge, personalities, walk-scoresdo you look for in candidates for City Commission?

Related (tangentially, generational differences) articles:


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

  1. May 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

    I look for the candidate’s last name to be spelled “_ _ _ _” with the first letter of the first name being preferably a “G”. And that’s about it.

  2. Brad
    May 7, 2013 at 8:19 am

    I have a new issue this year which may trump all others, which is this agenda 21 nonsense. Any candidate of any party who appears to take stock in that loses my vote. The worst part has been to see lawmakers responding to a single word or phrase (like biodiversity) by putting on their tinfoil hats and turning off their brains.

  3. May 7, 2013 at 8:55 am

    An ideal candidate is someone who is passionate about their community and listens to the needs of all constituents. They do not push their own personal agenda or the ideals of the political party to which they belong. A candidate who believes they can make a difference in their community and serve the office as a conscientious, studious, attentive and polite individual. When individuals elect to run for office on a “personal agenda” and are one-sided in their beliefs, those are the candidate who will not get my vote.

  4. Bob Atallo
    May 7, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Mayor requirements (and these are objective criteria):

    1. IQ of at least 100 (dead average)
    2. Experience in business and/or government at both lowest and highest levels
    3. Known to and respected by staff and community
    4. Not from a family dynasty or large land owner
    5. Does not own a business
    6. Is not running just because s/he needs the job
    7. Has never been fired from a job for gross misconduct
    8. No felony record
    9. Not predisposed to negativity or meanness (ok that one is subjective)
    10. Has held lower

  5. Bob Atallo
    May 7, 2013 at 9:27 am

    10. Has held lower office ((planning commission ok, and not just saying that because you’re on it Gary)
    11. Is not arrogant and/or condescending
    12. Is willing to make up mind based on facts and analysis
    13. Excellent BS detector
    14. Willing to work hard to understand the public interest (this is very hard) and act accordingly.

    I have worked directly for 8 mayors as a department head and all of them had one or more if these failings (and one had all of them!) and believe me, these are the qualities you want.

  6. May 7, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I’d argue that this year’s election is unusually important. Here’s why:

    The current commission has a lot of strengths. One of its weaknesses is a tendency to marginalize and micro-manage component boards – like planning, parks, TCLP, etc – that otherwise run much of the city’s most important endeavors.

    When I served, I tried to make a point of empowering component boards. Members of those boards embraced the challenge and responsibility, and produced some great projects and initiatives.

    Unless and until the leadership style changes, the composition of the city commission will continue to be the clearest path to getting things done. Therefore, this year’s election is the most important event to date for advancing the community goals discussed on Gary’s website, since he started it. Even better if the new commissioners understand the importance of these other boards. It has been more than ten years since there were two open seats on the commission – further magnifying the importance of this year’s election.

    I hope readers will give serious thought to making the commitment to commission service. It is a great learning experience and very rewarding. I pledge any help I can offer if you do step up.

    You’ll be glad you did.

  7. May 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    We need a friend of pedestrians, a friend of bicyclists, a friend of common sense–as many as we can get.

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