Indeed this journey into political life has felt like I’m making friends all along the way. The greatest joy in this process are the times I sit in homes, libraries or in community and meet with people. I’ve met people who care passionately for this place we call home and who know a great deal about the issues that matter here. And so I’ve learned. And when I didn’t know or understand, I’ve reached out to others, asked questions, read reports and done research. I’ve met County staff and other leaders who have graciously shared their knowledge with me.
I’ve also met people who are concerned by these times, many who are tired of the polarizing rhetoric as if our political party is like rooting for your favorite football team and tolerates no opposing viewpoints. Now while I love my Seattle Seahawks, I can imagine myself in conversation with a Green Bay Packers fan or visiting back with my Bay Area buddies who root for the 49ers. You see, we don’t elect leaders to run their colors. We elect leaders to govern, solve problems and listen to their constituents, regardless of whether they identify with elephants or donkeys.
This encourages me as I’ve long realized that solutions are found through dialogue and a shared commitment to common values. As a social worker, we worked from a perspective called “solution-focused therapy.” Raising my children, when they came home upset, I would ask, “Every problem has a solution. What is your solution?” I am running because I want to help find solutions for our community. I don’t want to be part of a rising partisan and disrespectful rhetoric. We can hold our leaders accountable to what they say and do, expecting them to move from problems to solutions. This means engaging in uncomfortable conversation and listening to the real concerns of residents, not dismissing their issues or perceptions.
This week, I met a senior who owns a home on Camano. She asked me questions about her septic system and the rules that protect our waters by requiring regular inspections. I didn't have the answer but promised to get back to her. When I called a few days later, she sounded surprised to hear from me. "What do you want?" she asked a bit suspiciously. "I'm just getting back to you to answer the question you asked," I responded. We talked for a few minutes about her question, then began talking a bit about family and other things. "Thank you for calling me," she said appreciatively as we ended our conversation.
Woodrow Wilson said, "The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people." I agree.