Confessions of a former mayor: A successful model of how governing to the majority can work.
. In 2005, the first year I ran for mayor of the city of Augusta, Georgia, I attended a church leadership retreat. During the retreat the moderator made the point that in churches the congregations generally fell into basic percentages with the first two being the very vocal 3% that are against all changes and the very vocal 3% that are for all changes. The next two categories he noted are the 12% that are “against…but” and the 12% that are “for…but” which are not quite so vocal as the first two categories. Then you have the rest of the congregants in the 70% that aren’t nearly so vocal and simply want to see things move forward. He then asserted, and rightfully so, that if you run a church based on catering to the will of the vocal minority you’re more than likely not doing what’s best for the congregation as a whole.
. With this principle firmly ingrained in my psyche I undertook a run for office that ultimately led to my being successfully elected in a run-off with 57% of the vote later that same year. In entering office with this mindset, and having graduated with a degree in political science, I decided early on that I viewed this journey as my own experiment in democracy in which I had no intention of being driven by the politics of the day but rather to always keep a focus on the big picture in my decision making and meeting the common ground needs of all of the citizens I served.
. During my nine years in office there were many occasions where I stirred the ire of the vocal minority on either end of the political spectrum. Being that local races here are non-partisan, and being an independent myself, helped me tremendously to resist the temptation to let the vocal minority influence my decision making in the fact that politically I wasn’t solely aligned with any one political party and thus didn’t have to factor any political motivation into the decision making process.
. For my first few years in office, there were times when I would receive a good number of calls, emails or letters on any given issue. However over time it seemed as though the vocal minority moved on to focus on other elected officials as my response was always courteous but my stance of not being bullied into making decisions became pretty well known. However when situations like this would occur I kept at the forefront of my mind that I served 200,000 citizens, some who voted for me, some who didn’t but all whose needs should be valued equally, and that 10, 15, 50 or even 100 angry voices shouldn’t cause me to make a decision that was not in the best interest of the majority my citizens.
. If you’re wondering how this approach to governing to the majority worked out it ultimately resulted in my being elected three times by an average of 64% of the vote. I know its not quite the 70% that the moderator I first mentioned got at when describing the people who aren’t so vocal and just want to see things move forward, but its pretty close and I’ve always made the assertion that if this approach to governing can work here in Augusta it can undoubtedly work in other cities as well.