News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 9, 2006

Pete Chalos: Community needs leadership from best and brightest

What does it take to win an election? Last week, we saw the climax of months of hard work and well-organized campaigning. Some candidates had been preparing to run for several months or even a few years. Spouses, children, family, friends and colleagues had been organizing, recruiting and promoting before most voters were even aware an election was coming up. It takes a lot of time and effort and a great deal of commitment to win an election.

Personal contact is one of the top priorities for any candidate wishing to run a successful campaign. The candidate must be willing to take his or her message out to the people and listen to the questions and concerns of the voting public. Going door to door to introduce your candidacy and hand out material, setting up coffees and meetings, and speaking to humanitarian and social clubs interested in local government are all ways to get your message out to the voters on a personal level.

Of course, you have to have a clear message that interests the voter. Each voter is interested in what you are going to do to improve his or her individual life as well as the community. The voter wants hope for the future. The voter wants to know things will get better. They won’t elect you, and shouldn’t elect you, if you don’t have a clear vision and specific plans to make this community a better place. You must show that you have the character and the drive to pursue progress but also show that you have the ability and know how to make it happen.

Every candidate has passion. Nobody would run for office if it wasn’t something inspired by passion. No candidate would stay in the race under the extreme pressure if there was no passion. Passion is common to all candidates. What separates the winners from the losers is conviction.

When a candidate’s convictions are well known, the public knows what to expect. The public knows what the candidate feels strongly about. Emotion is important but without focussing it on a set of convictions, it’s just noise. You can’t get the public to rally behind you, no matter how much you rant and rave, until you point them in a direction. You’ve got to show them a plan. Show them what has you so excited.

Once you’ve started rallying people around your cause, start giving them assignments. The worst thing you can do when someone asks you how they can support you is not to give that person something important to do. Get people involved. Organize your campaign workers early, recruit as many people (and their families) as possible and give everyone something important to do. Give everyone an assignment.

Financial support is always important. When someone walks up and asks what they can do, ask them for a contribution. You can’t pay for TV or radio commercials without contributions. No candidate gets elected without the financial backing of those who believe in and trust the candidate’s message. You’ve got to get the word out to as many people as possible. Personal contact is extremely important but advertising is always necessary. Get signs up in front yards, hand out pamphlets and pens with your name on them, and pay for ads during the local news.

We need more young candidates with goals and convictions running for office in Terre Haute and Vigo County. No candidate should go unopposed in any race. It’s a lot of work but well worth it. Our community deserves good leadership. Get involved. Pat the back of the best and brightest individuals you know and encourage them to get involved. Do it now.

Pete Chalos, a longtime teacher, coach and public servant, was mayor of Terre Haute for 16 years. E-mail