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May 13 2012

A Strategy to Better Match Elected Leader Demographics to Community Demographics

I’m a big believer in strategically developing leaders. I also believe that the demographics of a community’s leaders should reflect the demographics of the community.

rogers demographic graphAccording to 2010 census data, Rogers’ population is 31.5% Hispanic or Latino (click here to check out the rest of the census data). The Hispanic population has been been gradually increasing over the last 10 years but unfortunately, Hispanic citizens are rarely stepping forward to run for office and only a small number vote.

As I look at the demographics of the 40-plus Benton County candidates who are running in the May 22 race, only one is Hispanic. Octavio Sanchez is running for Benton County Quorum Court. He is very qualified and he has been active in the Republican party for many years. I’m grateful for his willingness to serve but to represent Benton County’s 15.5% citizens of Hispanic or Latino decent, we need another five candidates just like Octavio. If you look at the Rogers City Council, at least two aldermen should be Hispanic or Latino.

The irresponsible answer is to recruit an ill-prepared or wrongly motivated Hispanic candidate and cleverly market him or her (because we recognize that marketing strategy has a lot to do with winning elections). A candidate who isn’t qualified, is running for the wrong reasons, or lacks a servant heart won’t be successful in public office and may not even be elected. It places them in a position to fail and suffer a damaged reputation or political career.

The best answer is to create an initialtive that identifies and recruits qualified Hispanic candidates and prepares them for successful candidacy and election to serve in our community.

Step one is to recruit mentors who network in the community to identify the right potential candidates. It’s not clear how many people are already qualified but have never considered running. Public office is often something people don’t consider because they don’t understand the election process or the roles.

Step two is for mentors to help potential candidates see their how their experience and expertise is useful in an elected office. Mentors should also help the candidate identify areas to develop so they are completely prepared for success in campaigning, election, and serving. They might need to develop their speaking or speech-writing skills or refine particular leadership skills.

Step three is to help them build a campaign strategy and election committee. They need guidance to develop an authentic, crystal-clear, voter-focused vision for their campaign message. They also need help creating a compelling marketing strategy that addresses the needs of their constituents.

On my 4 Next Steps for Rogers, this strategy falls under Developing City Leaders. Diversity is good for all of us. When we recruit and develop the right people, it sets the stage for an engaged community that thrives.

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