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Time to pay attention to candidates close to home before you have to decide

We get it.

It’s summer in Minnesota. The skies are blue, the lakes are cool and the fish are biting. All any of us really want is some bonfire time with the family.

But we’re going to ask you to peel a little bit of your attention away in the next few weeks and give it, instead of to the pursuit of happiness, to the pursuit of good leadership.

Almost everyone is aware that Americans will choose a president in November. Most news consumers, at least, know that we’ll also be choosing our representatives to statehouses and local governments. Some don’t know that the decision-making time is now, not five months from now.

In wise words commonly ascribed to Buddha, “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

In reality, your choices will narrow in just 6 weeks. Local primaries happen Aug. 11, meaning some candidates you might like if you got to know their platforms will be wiped away from your options.

And in cities with no primary voting — Waite Park, St. Joseph and St. Augusta among them — your chance to recruit a new candidate or join the race yourself is open only from July 28-Aug. 11.

Primaries aside, now is the time to start paying attention to the people who want to occupy seats in the Legislature or who have already declared their candidacies for offices including the St. Cloud, Sartell and Sauk Rapids city councils and school boards and the county commissions of Central Minnesota.

Why now? Because there’s still time to ask questions and get answers of substance. There’s time to look for an alternative candidate if you don’t like the answer you get.

And because the inevitable election shenanigans (who stole whose yard signs?) haven’t muddied the waters with emotion yet.

In short, it’s time to pay attention because the campaigns are still (relatively) pure. The paid letter-to-the-editor writers haven’t ramped up their word factories yet. No one has lobbed accusations of criminality at a local campaign opponent yet. You’re still likely to get a chance to interact with a candidate who isn’t exhausted and stressed from campaigning, meaning you’ll get a look at who they truly can be, not who they are just in the thick of the fight. You get a chance to assess their leadership potential, and reassess as the campaigns go on.

We want the best leadership we can get for our cities, schools, counties and state — and if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that local leadership matters in a crisis. It matters in managing a pandemic, quelling a riot, preventing a breakdown in policing, ensuring protection of the rights of every American, born or naturalized, and putting together a plan to teach kids when their school is closed.

The decisions we make about who will lead us here, close to home, are as important as who we send to Washington. This year has taught that lesson, yessiree.

The catch is that you have to work harder to make those good decisions about local leadership. No cable pundit is shouting their opinion about the Rice City Council race. No national columnist is weighing in on who should join the St. Cloud school board. No TV stations are broadcasting a candidate forum for Stearns County Commissioners.

So you’ll need to pay attention and make an effort — even more this year as COVID-19 quashes some of the traditional summer parades and events where candidates and voters met up.

We’re here for you, with many local candidate profiles already published and more to come. But don’t stop there. Call your candidate for a quick chat. Email them with questions. Grab your mask and hit up a forum, if they happen.

Don’t let the time slip away, and with it a chance at creating the best local leadership possible.

— St. Cloud Times

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