OUR VIEW: Democracy loses without choices

Published 5:44 pm Thursday, August 22, 2019

We’ve got to admit, we were a little disappointed when we saw the final list of qualified candidates for the upcoming municipal election in West Point.

There were only six names on the entire list, with only one person running for mayor and five for three city council seats.

However, before we get too far into our feelings, we should recognize the six men and women who were willing to run for public office. City council incumbents Gerald Ledbetter, Sandra Thornton and Deedee Williams will face opposition from Walda “Wicky” Gladden and Kesha Edwards-Coniglio. Mayor Steve Tramell will run unopposed.

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All of them deserve to be applauded, just for signing up to run or attempting to continue their political career. 

Running for office is not an easy decision, and while getting elected is hard work, it’s also just the beginning. Council members have to make very tough decisions, including voting for and against things that may not be agreeable to all of their constituents.   

It’s not a job for the faint of heart, nor is it worth the small amount of pay that comes along with it. With that said, it’s an important job, one that someone needs to do well in order for West Point to function.

Thank goodness for these six, who stepped forward and are willing to face the challenges and scrutiny that come with a run for public office. We appreciate all of you and wish you luck as you campaign in the upcoming weeks.

Unfortunately, there aren’t more names on the ballot, and the mayor’s race is uncontested, a real loss for citizens.

Tramell, by most accounts, has served West Point well as mayor. He’s a smart man who is very candid in his approach to handling problems, and we think he’s done an admirable job in his role.

But our next point has nothing to do with Tramell at all.

The truth is that democracy loses when there isn’t actually a choice at the ballot box. When voters go to the polls in November, Tramell’s name will be the only name on the ballot for mayor, meaning he’s set to serve another four years in that role.

There won’t be a forum or debate for mayoral candidates to discuss West Point’s strengths and areas for improvement. Citizens won’t get the chance to ask questions and hear (potentially) opposing views on the same topic.

All of those things produce real growth in communities, as locals have to consider differing solutions to short term and long-term problems. That’s how the American political system is supposed to work.

We know there are many people in West Point who have opinions on ways to improve the city. At the newspaper, we hear from them on a consistent basis, and that’s a good thing. Being involved is extremely important, especially in small town politics.

We just wish one of those people with a big heart for West Point had stepped up to the plate to give Tramell a little competition as he looks for another term.

Of course, it should be noted that the uncontested race also speaks to the community’s belief in Tramell. Many may see him as unbeatable and the right man for the job, and we’re not disputing that. He’s already been elected once after taking over Drew Ferguson’s term in 2016.

However, the lack of a mayoral race also makes it likely that fewer people show up to the polls, a sad problem in a country where we get to choose our leaders.

We hope that we’re wrong, but typically municipal races have very few votes, especially when they aren’t linked up with a presidential election.

We applaud the six locals who were willing to try a run at public office, and we hope West Point shows up in big numbers to vote in November. Hopefully four years from now, voters will have more names to choose from.