Candidates For Selectmen Q And A, Part 5: What Lessons Have You Learned In Your Years As An Elected Official?
Apr 05, 2019 09:04PM
By Bill Gilman
You have each won multiple elections and, as such, have been entrusted with positions of leadership by your friends and neighbors. In serving as an elected official, how have you grown, as a leader, since being elected the first time?
Anne Marie Stronach
I believe I have. I believe my greatest area of growth involves communication and active listening. A good leader empowers people to drive decisions. I am now very comfortable with the reality that I am not supposed to have all the answers. As a leader, I need to work to gather consensus and bring the best ideas to the table! This helps me to drill down to what I can positively impact without providing false expectations. More importantly, I have a deeper understanding of the process and structures to support the residents to ensure their tax dollars are spent efficiently.
So many lessons from public service! Above all, the most important lesson is engagement with all residents, not just the ones who agree with you or voted for you.
In today’s hurry up world, nothing is more important than meeting people where they are – by attending meetings and events by community groups, serving beyond the confines of your elected office, being present on social media, and listening.
Expecting residents to figure out how to get involved or wait for them to come to you is a fool’s errand. Instead – I find it much more effective to go out and listen to what people have to say. I have met more people volunteering a few hours at Zero Waste Day, sorting donations at the Community Pantry, building floats for the Memorial Day Parade, building playgrounds, picking up trash on Beautification Day, teaching kids bike safety at the Bike Rodeo, clearing trails, cooking at National Night Out, serving breakfast to Veterans, and on and on.
Leadership is not about standing on a dais, throwing candy in a parade, or making a speech – it’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting work done - and in that course of that effort, learning about the personal struggles people are having and the things they love about the community. Only in this fashion can a leader really understand the impacts their decisions have across the multiple constituencies for which they are responsible and help them make the best decisions possible.
I love Tewksbury and have been honored to serve 12 years as selectman and three years on the Finance Committee. I’ve learned more about my town, the needs of our neighbors, and the decisions that affect our daily lives. I’ve met wonderful residents and business owners who I would likely not have met, and learned from them.
As selectman, I learned the most effective path to progress and enhanced my understanding how important it is to listen carefully to all points of view and balance them with the overall benefit to the entire community. I learned how critical it is to work respectfully with board members to bring sides together and reach consensus. Finally, I learned to be more direct and clear in my views, so residents know exactly where I stand.
These things helped turn around a terrible financial situation. I was there at the worst time, and I’m proud of my role to dramatically improve it. We need to maintain that discipline and leadership to tackle the next important issues, and I’m confident that what I’ve learned during my service to the town makes me best equipped to meet those challenges.