Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

Let’s Talk

I still believe that the job of a politician is to work for all of us lucky enough to live in the district

It’s sad to see elected officials serve their constituents poorly. Some, after they are sworn into office, simply push the purist politics of their base voters.

To these politicians, politics is a sport. It’s a game where winning is better than losing. Some politicians believe that because they’re elected, they know best. They often don’t. Listening helps.

Some elected politicians never worked the doors of their respective districts. This is gloomy. Knocking on doors was one of the more fun things about campaigning, offering a chance to talk to people at their homes.

Those were good conversations. Some were short, some long. I recall many yards, the worn dog-ways by the fences, the outdoor freezers sitting dutifully on porches.

In the thousands of household doors I’d knocked, I’ve had one, maybe two, bad interactions. Most people were happy to talk about the direction our community, state, and nation should head.

Local people at the doors, coffee shops, and pubs across our towns have the best ideas. A past constituent told me how one small thing could help some Montanans during an economic depression. Increase the value of the homestead declaration a homeowner could file on their property, he said.

Montana has a dollar value that homeowners can claim to protect the assets of their home. The older value protected $100,000 of a homestead from creditors. A decade ago, that one constituent convinced me and hence the state of Montana, through the Legislature and the governor, that the sheltered value should be at least $250,000.

Any Montana homeowner can claim the homestead declaration to protect the assets of their home from bankruptcy. This is a good thing as some Montanans find themselves in fiscal trouble due to routine and simple things like family sicknesses.

A homestead declaration is simple. The form is easy, available through the Montana State University Extension website. Don’t thank me; I simply carried a commonsense update from a person in the district. Thank their courage to engage politics. To believe that together we can make it better.

Making it better is not the sport of politics, picking winners and losers, rather the job of governance. It’s why we elect people to represent our interest. Politicians whom only serve base believers do an enormous disservice to themselves, the people of their districts, and our state.

As familiar politics heat up in Helena, elections are quietly gaining speed in the municipalities across the state. In Whitefish, four people are up for reelection.

Katie Williams, Frank Sweeney, and Richard Hildner all must decide if they will again seek to represent the town’s people via a leadership seat on the Whitefish City Council. I hope they do. They’ve got a collective wisdom about themselves and have done a good job at listening to the people who live in town.

Mayor John Muhlfeld is also up for reelection. He enjoys strong community support and would win another term. I hope he’s up to it. I am grateful for his service. It’s one tough job.

The work of politicians can be thankless. We should do a better job at letting our elected leaders know about the positive stuff they’ve accomplished for all of us. A handful of accolades go a long way toward balancing the constant criticism, which accompanies any job of leadership.

Regardless of which way you feel about politics, politicians, and the states of our state and nation, no one has a better system or access to governance. We live in the most interesting of times. I bet past generations believed such.

Maybe I’m trusting, a simple farmer, but I still believe that the job of a politician is to work for all of us lucky enough to live in the district. Some still do it. Many don’t. All could.