Public servants must be sure they have time to serve public

That is something to consider this week as it is the filing period for a host of local offices, including several school boards and city councils.

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It’s difficult to run for public office, and it’s usually tougher to serve.

Those elected are always in the public eye and those in volunteer posts such as serving on a city council or school board must balance their time between their day jobs, their families and their obligations as an elected official.

Poor attendance at Walla Walla City Council meetings by some members has been a concern over the past few months. Specifically, the absences of Council members Shane Laib and Conrado Cavazos Jr. triggered a discussion between City Council members for the need to adopt a policy to determine excused absences. In addition, Laib and Cavazos were absent for the presentation and vote on whether to switch Rose Street to three lanes. Six weeks later, they were there to reverse the decision.

Since January of 2012, Laib and Cavazos have each missed 21 of the 67 meetings they were expected to attend, according to city records. That is nearly a third (31 percent). The other five Council members have missed nine or fewer meetings, which include regular Council meetings as well as work sessions and special meetings.

Laib made no secret of why he was missing his Council obligations. He had taken a temporary job in Olympia working for Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane. Laib knew balancing Çouncil service with working in Olympia would be complicated. But, ultimately, if his bosses (the voters) were not happy with his performance they don’t have to re-elect him.

It is all moot now as Laib has decided not to seek another term. If he can’t fulfill the majority of his Council responsibilities, that’s a prudent call on his part.

The absences by Cavazos were generally for family matters, health issues and having to go out of town for work. These are all reasonable, yet the frequency is troubling. And it is still a concern because Cavazos is seeking re-election in November. He filed the papers this week with the county Auditor’s Office.

If Cavazos is re-elected, he can be effective only if he is attending to his required duties. That means making nearly every meeting. If this is not a priority for him then it makes little sense for him to run again.

This goes for all the candidates for all the offices on the ballot this year. In this off-year election, the ballot is dominated by local, unpaid positions.

Friday is the last day to file for the various positions, so there is still time to run if you feel the pull of public service.

However, before making the huge commitment to serve it is essential candidates are confident they can meet all of the obligations — including have a solid attendance record for scheduled meetings.

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