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Got a Head for Business? Then Run for Office!

width=200By Butch Brooks President of Miles Resources (formerly known as Woodworth & Company) AGC of Washington Board Member and former City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem City of Fife.

Many people are calling this an “off election year” and not thinking about politics or who is running for office. But don’t forget all politics is local and 2011 is a year where hundreds of city and county council school board fire district and water district seats are on the ballot. And with the budget challenges that local and state governments face we need good people in office with business experience who understand how to budget for short term challenges to maximize long term opportunities.

In addition to budget matters there are many issues in which private sector experience is invaluable. When I was elected to the Fife City Council I was pleased to bring my business and construction experience to the table as the city wrestled with growth issues. I felt that I contributed by knowing how complex infrastructure projects should be contracted and built and by asking the right questions along the way. There was a lot of valuable knowledge and experience on the Fife Council as on councils around the country. But I ran for office because I believe that we would all benefit from more business and in particular construction experience within our government bodies.

I urge you to consider sharing your hard-earned leadership management budgeting and performance-based expertise and talents by running for elected office – or to encourage your employees to do so.

Hometown private sector business owners managers and employees often have the exact experience skill-set and objectivity to be effective and balanced elected officials especially at the local level. Consider that private sector owners and employees:

1. Must carefully balance short and long term needs to ensure survival of their businesses and are held to account every single day by the free market.

2. Must be keenly aware of their competitive position and adaptable to changing circumstances and new information.

3. Are not swayed by emotions or the loudest voice in the room but instead operate on sound data objective measurements and performance-driven results.

4. Understand budget sustainability and know that a successful organization must live within its means.

5. Understand that investments must have a strong potential for return on investment and are held accountable for their decisions.

While the numbers of elected officials who have some sort of business background is improving – State Sen. Curtis King of AGC member King Brothers Woodworking is a great example – more are needed.

From city and county council to school board and water and fire district seats the 2011 election year provides many opportunities to serve in local office. And 2012 will offer the opportunity to serve in the state Legislature where members of the business and construction communities can help shape public policy that will improve conditions in our state for future generations.

I’d be happy to chat with you about my own experience in the rough and tumble – and rewarding – world of electoral politics but I encourage you to think about running. There’s lots to do!

This article was written in collaboration with the nonprofit nonpartisan Enterprise Washington and the Business Institute of Washington both of which help companies and employees to better understand how elected officials establish public policy and to become more involved in the political process.

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