If the American political landscape were The Beatles, local politics would be the George Harrison of the group. The perhaps least “sexy” of political topics, local politics are often more important to our daily lives than anything that would make Fox News or CNN. Local politics have taken somewhat of a spotlight in Maryville and Nodaway County during the pandemic, and even with all the ugliness the bright light brings, it’s nice to see competition and interest in Maryville and Nodaway County politics.
National and even state politicians are often out of touch with the people they are supposed to be representing. The phrase “gone Washington” is frequently used by either side to disparage their opponents’ campaigns in congressional and Senate races. Sometimes the lawmaker won’t even maintain a residence in the state they represent — looking at you, Sen. Josh Hawley.
Local politicians, however, are very much members of the same community as their constituents. They work with people they represent. They attend church with them, cheer at sporting events with them, shop at the same stores and are even Facebook friends with the people who may or may not have voted for them.
Upcoming City Council elections have not always been a hot-button issue in Maryville. The last election June 6, 2020, featured two current City Council members Ben Lipiec and Rachael Martin running unopposed. The voter turnout was 5.8% of Maryville’s registered voters. That year was not an outlier. In 2019 — when the use tax vote was retried and in essence snuck past those who rejected it in 2018 — fewer than 800 votes were cast on the issue and Councilman Tye Parsons won in an unopposed election.
This year the ballot will look a little different. Four candidates have filed for the two open positions on City Council as current Councilmen Jason McDowell and Matt Johnson are not seeking reelection. This election will in many ways mirror the one from 2017 that saw four candidates running for two seats and had a vote total of more than double the 2019 and 2020 elections combined.
And the Maryville R-2 School Board election will follow the same simple formula as the City Council: four candidates, two seats, no incumbents.
Yes, many of us have been forced to listen to history teachers and news anchors that endlessly tout the many “virtues of American democracy” and how competition is the bedrock of those virtues. Just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it’s any less true.
Our representative democracy relies on competition to make sure all sides of an issue are heard and our politicians are honest. Human nature relies on competition so that we don’t become bored with even the most important topics because there is no stake in the game for us.
While there may not be anything particularly malicious or sadistic occurring in local elections that are unopposed, it’s not ever really a good sign. Lack of opposition does not normally mean everyone agrees on something; it means people have become too lazy to stand in opposition.
This is dangerous in any facet from student council to the U.S. presidency, but it’s especially dangerous in local elections. Local officials can change the very landscape of a community for better or worse, and if no one pays attention enough to oppose or care, they can do it without anyone knowing.
Perhaps the truest sentiment that should be agreed upon by every registered voter in America is that if you have the opportunity to vote and don’t, then you don’t have the right to complain about elected officials and their decisions.
The current City Council has been much maligned by many in this community. It has been forced to handle perhaps the largest crisis that has ever struck Maryville for nearly a year now. A virus that affects much more than one person’s immune system has changed everything current local officials have been able to do. The editorial staff for this publication has often supported the Council and appreciated the tough tasks it has had to undertake.
It is nice, though, that when people go to fill out a ballot for the Board of Education and the City Council in Maryville in 2021, they will be looking at a list of names longer than the list of seats available.