Over the years, I have had a few friends ask me this exact question: “do you think I should run for mayor?” Each time I have felt compelled to answer the same way. It goes something like this:
“I think you would be a good candidate, but you might mess around and win, and then you would have to actually BE the mayor.”
The point of my answer is that there is a distinct difference between campaigning and governing. In the political world, winning a mayoral election can be a logical step in an individual’s rise to higher office. There is no question that attending ribbon cuttings, marshaling parades and dangerously waving the green flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway brings public exposure that is politically priceless. But you are also responsible for trash collection, pollution, pot holes and occasionally my favorite, the weather. It is work. Thankless, miserable, hard work.
Now, there are tough parts of every job or it wouldn’t be called that. However, it is my view that no elected position is tougher in America than that of mayor (except President). With that said, the first campaign hurdle in any mayor’s race has to be convincing the public that a candidate unquestionably wants to be mayor. That sounds too basic to really matter that much, but I contend that it has been the difference maker in every Indianapolis race since the town became more politically balanced during the Goldsmith years. It may have been the difference before, but I am far too young and spry to personally recall.
If we look at a political campaign like a drawn out, expensive job interview, and the 3 or 4 candidates for mayor are being interviewed by the 850,000 people that live in Indy, wouldn’t one of the first and most prominent questions asked be “why do you want to be mayor?” My advice would be to limit answers to 60 seconds or less, but it would still be the most important answer to any question asked. The only truly deserving candidate must show that he or she wants it the most and for the best reasons.
All of the people that are running (and apparently considering running) for Mayor of Indianapolis are capable of serving as mayor. More people are capable of adequately performing the duties than the average guy on the street might think. But in our job search in Indianapolis, we are looking for more than “capable” and “adequate” now. We want, need and deserve the person that will lead us through our crime problem and our infrastructure challenges. We want a mayor that will recognize all of the things that make our city uniquely great, and inspire us to make it more unique and more great. Oh, and to the lucky winner of our job search, you only get a four year window to live up to your answer or you are fired.
Now, say again, why do you want to be mayor? We are all ears.