Kathy was actively involved in her community and had been appointed to fill a vacancy on council. But, she still had to consider whether to run for a full four-year term. Before making her decision and filing the petition, she completed the three sessions of Contemplating Governing.
“I was so impressed by the number of people that attended, with the quality of the instructors and with how the course was structured overall,” Coder said. “At the end of the three sessions, I was confident in my decision to run because I had a better sense of what to expect in local government and what I might be able to accomplish for my community.”
First offered in 2009, Contemplating Governing is an introduction to local government service. A non-partisan program, Contemplating Governing is not political training. Instead, it focuses on the tasks and issues facing local governments and gives citizens the chance to consider the opportunities, challenges, requirements and reasons to serve in local office. Contemplating Governing focuses on topics such as:
- Understanding Pennsylvania’s local government environment, including powers and duties of various boards and commissions
- Overcoming obstacles to meeting legal requirements
- Determining what is a responsible campaign pledge
- Understanding local government taxation and services
- Measuring board effectiveness
- Local government’s role in community sustainability
Contemplating Governing will be offered again in the first quarter of 2011 in two southwestern PA locations – Pittsburgh and Cranberry. On-line registration is now open.
In addition to the comprehensive overview of local government, Coder admitted that another benefit of the program is that it makes you evaluate your reasons for wanting to run for office.
“When I first became involved, I knew that I wanted to do something good for my community,” Coder said. “Attending Contemplating Governing helped me realize what good government is – and I wanted to make sure that Bellevue was doing good government.”
Kathy won both the May Primary and the General Election in November 2009, victories she says were achieved in large part because of her participation in Contemplating Governing.
“I was able to improve my campaign by championing a message of good government and I was able to share those ideas with citizens as I knocked on doors throughout my ward, especially because none of the other candidates took the course,” Coder said. “After Contemplating Governing, I had a better understanding that Council Members are a legislative body – we set policy and we aren’t there to run the day-to-day operations of the borough. By knowing what my powers and duties would be, I was better able to answer questions that were posed to me throughout the campaign.”
Kathy knows that there are a lot of ways for people to make a difference in their community. But, running for and being elected to local office has given her an opportunity to bring Bellevue and other communities around her – Avalon, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, Kilbuck Township, Ohio Township, and Emsworth – together to discuss various projects and ways that the communities can work together to provide improve the quality of life for citizens. One such project that the North Boroughs is working on is the joining of a 16 mile walking/bike trail that already exists in sections between the seven municipalities.
“It is easy to be an arm chair quarterback, but if you want to make a difference, you have to get involved,” Coder said. “I’ve learned that there is a huge need for professionals to bring their skills to local government. If we want to progress, not only as a community, but as a region, then there needs to be a new generation that brings a new set of standards of excellence in local government.”
While courses like Contemplating Governing are not mandatory for those seeking to run for local office, Coder believes that everyone who wants to get their name on the ballot should seek out the training offered in Contemplating Governing before making a final decision.
“If running for local office interests you, then please do yourself a favor and invest the three nights in Contemplating Governing so that you get a realistic picture of local government and can make good decisions for yourself and your community.”