Just over two months have passed since the presidential election in November 2016, and already election time is beginning to gear up again in Brentwood. Before you start saying, ‘Well, that can’t possibly be right, can it?’ consider that the filing deadline for candidates who wish to run for the Brentwood City Commission is noon on February 16, a little more than a month away.
Three of the seven current board members’ terms expire in May of this year. All three—Commissioners Regina Smithson, Rhea Little and Mark Gorman—have picked up their qualifying petitions, and Mayor Smithson has already filed hers, according to information from the Williamson County Election Commission. The election will be held on May 2.
One group preparing for the election is the Williamson County Chamber Foundation, which is the non-profit arm of Williamson, Inc. The chamber foundation sponsors the Leadership Brentwood program and on Friday morning at the Brentwood Library held a program for its alumni association focused on getting Leadership Brentwood graduates more engaged with local government.
Mike Walker, the former city manager of Brentwood, spoke at the event about the ins and outs of Brentwood’s system of government, and Rod Freeman, a former Brentwood city commissioner, talked about the spirit and calling of public service.
Lynn Tucker coordinates the Leadership Brentwood program as well as its alumni association. She said that the group was interested in getting more of its graduates to enter public life.
“It’s really important for leaders in the community to step up to the plate and join boards, be volunteers in the community, run for city office, run for state office and actually serve the community,” she said.
Leadership Brentwood is a seven-month-long program that educates local leaders on issues of the day related to government, business, education and other topics.
“It’s a program for leaders in the community who want to learn more about their community and…once they complete that program we expect them to give back to the community basically,” Tucker said.
Although she said none of the 53 people in attendance came up to her after the event and shared any immediate plans to run for office, Tucker got good feedback from audience members. “Everybody really enjoyed the presentation. I got a lot of good feedback about that,” she said.
Mark A. Cleveland, the owner and CEO of both Hobby Express and ride sharing application company Hytch, was also at the talk Friday morning. Cleveland serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of Williamson Inc., and he expressed his hope that the presentation would spur more local leaders into government service, whether that be on a school board or on a city or county commission.
He said the event brought “thoughtful leaders information about how to serve if they’re called,” referring to a statement he remembered of Rod Freeman’s about how politicians need to sense both an inner calling and an outer calling from supporters in order to run.
He was a little more definite in his predictions about the effect of the morning’s meeting than Tucker, going so far as to foresee more competition on the ballot in May as a result of it.
“I think there are gonna be two or three candidates for this next Brentwood election who are borne from today’s conversation,” he said.
He thinks more candidates would boost turnout in Brentwood. “The more people who run, the more people who are going to get involved,” he said.
That issue of engagement is key for Cleveland. Even if a local leader does not feel that personal calling to run for office, Cleveland thinks the community would benefit if that leader, and more like them, took an active interest in government and stayed informed on local political issues. He thinks it would serve to “really defend and extend prosperity” in the area.
“We’re looking for informed and passionate, thoughtful business leaders and people who can contribute in the political process to manage strategic growth,” Cleveland said.