Qualifications count

In this unusually intense campaign season, we are confronted each day with new, and often distressing remarks and proposals concerning qualifications of candidates in elections from the local to the national level.

There are those who tout a candidate’s experience and skills as positive attributes; and there are those who attempt to cloud said experience and skills with one dodge or another — feints, as it were, to distract listener or reader from an analysis of abilities relative to the realities with which a candidate must deal. After all, what are skills, apart from those realities?

It’s a shame, because experience and skill matter when they fit the situation. Now, perhaps more than ever, at the national level, the state level, the local level.

The attempt to diminish the importance of experience and skills is, naturally, the tack of supporters of candidates who, in fact, do not possess the necessary skills and experience to deal with the problems at hand. The arguments have their effect, and they skew a measure of public opinion.

Nationally, it seems a favored strategy to demean a candidate on the grounds of no management experience, little productive experience as an elected legislator. Yet, what if the problem we face nationally is as much psychological as anything else? If so, is not the ability to transform attitude and to affect compromise important? The lack of experience in a small corner of the field is too often emphasized, obscuring recognition of qualities that stand a candidate in the best stead regarding what threatens us in the broader scheme — a crisis of confidence.

Equally disingenuous, at the local level we find individuals claiming that financial and management experience are not important to the task faced by the next members of our county commission. The claim is made in the face of a stunning financial meltdown and the prospect of continued financial problems for years to come. With next year’s budget likely to include little more than a low five-figure amount over needed expenses, there is no financial problem?

Some claim administrators have assured us the county is on the right track, so there is no need for commissioners with extensive experience and knowledge of the particulars of county finance. And yet, county officials were telling us three years ago that all was well. And, lacking skills, our commissioners believed it. It is precisely because our commissioners lacked finance and management talents that they failed to avoid the coming storm.

Now, a new claim: Why would we want to elect people with financial experience? After all, aren’t they the kind of rascals who got the country into the trouble it is now in?

No, they are not.

The players who got this nation, and world, into trouble are not incompetent. They are, in fact, too competent — when it comes to filling their own pockets and taking advantage of a market system grossly lacking in regulation. It is our elected officials and their appointees who are incompetent, inexperienced, lacking financial acumen.

In the next two weeks, we need to judge which candidates can make the grade, which have skills suited to a particular problem. We also need to evaluate the stated experience of each candidate, judge whether or not their record is one of success, check with those affected by, and familiar with the results of their tenure on boards and commissions, their role in business.

In this unusual and intense campaign season, with less than two weeks to go before votes are tallied, it is time to consider the experience and skills of candidates at all levels and assess those factors relative to the problems at hand — then decide on who will lead us in what will almost certainly be some difficult times ahead.

Karl Isberg