Our Opinion: When magnified, qualifications not so elementary

Sherlock Holmes was sitting in an overstuffed chair at his 221-B Baker St. apartment and puffing on his Meerschaum pipe when the stranger, escorted by Dr. Watson, entered.

“Holmes,” Watson said, introducing his boss to the stranger. “This is Mr. City, Jefferson City. He has need of our services.”

The master detective sized up the client. Jefferson City appeared both poised and prosperous, but his expression revealed a hint of anxiety.

Prompted by Holmes’ inquiries, Jefferson City revealed although he enjoyed stability and progress as a result of reasonable decisions, he feared for the future.

“Next year,” the client said, “five of the 10 seats on our City Council will be up for election. The filing period begins Tuesday and continues through Nov. 22.”

“And what are the qualifications?” Holmes inquired.

“Elementary,” the client answered. “A candidate must be a U.S. citizen, a city resident and at least 21 years old. They also must have lived in the city for a year and in the ward they seek to represent for six months prior to the election.” The client paused, then added: “Oh, and they can’t have any outstanding debts to the city and their background must not include misappropriation of funds from office or removal from a council seat.”

“I see,” Holmes said, “but if we’re going to seek exceptional candidates, we’ll need to address the personal qualities and time commitment required.”

The client pondered momentarily. “Well, a council member can do the minimum, but that’s really not what we’re after,” said Jefferson City. “Based on the experience of members who have served, the consensus is that public service is about much more than attending meetings.

“Council members also serve on committees and as liaisons to citizens’ advisory boards and commissions. They must be out in the community, listening to constituents and visiting streets and neighborhoods where changes are proposed. They must be diligent researchers who are able to articulate their ideas. They must be willing to consider other viewpoints and compromise when it advances the common good.”

“That’s a tall order,” Holmes said. “Such people could be hard to find.”

“I hope not,” Jefferson City replied. “The future of our city depends on qualified, competent people stepping forward.”

“Then let the search begin,” Holmes exclaimed. “The game’s afoot!”

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