>Western Tribune column September 2, 2009; Candidates and Education

>This is my Western Tribune column from this week’s paper.

I might be stepping on some toes here, but with elections in Bessemer coming up next year, and the very entertaining Birmingham elections just past, it’s time for people to begin considering running for mayor, city council, and school board.

No one would dream of a school board member being elected who does not have a college education, but in Birmingham a candidate lied about both his college degree and his high school education, believing that these embellishments to his resume would increase his standing with voters.

I spoke with that candidate by phone and communicated via Facebook because I was in charge of arranging for a candidate screening for endorsement s by the Alabama Stonewall Democrats. I had no idea at the time that he was a liar.

Then when the candidate profiles for all of the Birmingham races were printed on Sunday before the election I thought looking at the educational qualifications of each candidate would be interesting.

It seems to me that that a college educated candidate would be better prepared to deal with issues facing a city or a school system than one who had less education. That’s not to say that other life experiences are not important or that good ideas can’t come from everyone.

All the school board candidates, other than the liar, had degrees of varying sorts.

But city council candidates were a different story. Based on their candidate profiles, thirteen out of 43 candidates did not have a college degree, including some incumbents and some in runoffs.
Many jobs require a certain degree of education as qualification before one should even apply.

No one would deny that serving as an elected official is an important job. Running a city involves budgeting skills and decision making and working together; qualities that most graduates will say they developed while a student in college. Especially, I might add, if a master’s level is achieved.

I have no idea of the educational level of any Bessemer elected official. I don’t know if any incumbents will be running or who the challengers might be, so I am not picking on anyone when I say that we need candidates who have completed a college education.

And when the various political groups begin to endorse candidates, let’s hope that they also realize the value that a college education adds to a candidate’s qualifications.

We can do better than Birmingham.

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