Making a Difference

What spurs people to run for public office? I would venture to guess the initial motivation isn’t to become a politician, but is to try to make positive change to their surroundings, to have the capacity and influence to help others…whatever that looks like to them. Holding public office is a huge responsibility that requires creative and critical thinking, integrity, drive, and energy, and the desire to make a difference…or, at least it should.

Running for public office is something any one of us can do; we all bring our own unique knowledge, viewpoint, and experience with us. As citizens, we have a vested interest in the functions of the town, city, county, country we live in. When Irene Gossin ran for town supervisor in 1969, she did so because she knew she “could help make decisions better than the ones that were being made.” And, as she was able to prove, she did make and enact many progressive decisions during her 10 years in that role that we still benefit from 30 years later.


So, maybe you’re mulling the idea of throwing your hat into the ring, but wonder: how do I get started? What will be expected of me?  How do I run a campaign? With the general unhappiness of much of the electorate, the number of people interested in getting involved in politics has soared, spurring the creation of several campaign “school” and leadership development opportunities, two of which will happen locally. The first of these is an afternoon campaign boot camp, scheduled for April 1, and put together by the leaders of the Democratic committees of Penfield, Pittsford, Perinton (aka Eastside Dems). The second such opportunity is through a program called Women Elect, which offers a 4-months long, “in-depth training and coaching process that focuses on teaching the unique skills required of candidates for elected office”, purposely for Democrat women in the Buffalo and Rochester areas who are looking to run.

In trying to offer those who may be interested in running an idea of what it’s like to be a candidate for public office, I have asked all Penfield Democratic Committee members who have done so, whether elected or not, to write about their experiences, which I will be posting over the coming weeks. If you’re interested in running for town board and live in Penfield, please reach out to our town committee leader, Kate McArdle, at

As Irene Gossin advised back in 1973: “If you don’t agree with something, protest is fine; but making constructive suggestions is the way to go.” As citizens, this is our responsibility: to acknowledge where change is needed, and then, to act in order to bring about these changes. Now’s the time!

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