Across the state, newly elected officials have just been sworn in. Weeks ago, they were candidates singularly focused on winning elective office. Days ago, they thought they were ready to face the tasks ahead of them. Now, many are wondering what they got themselves into.
It’s a challenge that many face – transitioning from private citizen to candidate to public official. One of California’s most successful political strategists, Larry Tramutola, has written a guide to help the newest elected officials ease into their new roles and become effective leaders.
Anyone in office will tell you there is no manual, no “Idiots Guide to Governing.” And Larry makes that point in his book as well. But what Now What? A Practical Guide for Newly Elected Officials, offers is an introspective approach to adapting to a very public role.
The League of California Cities, the Institute for Local Governing, and the California State Association of Counties, among others provide effective training for newly elected officials, but Now What? focuses not on how to hold a meeting, follow Open Meeting laws, or draft a new resolution, but rather how officials can overcome their own internal struggles, ranging from ego and Me-centered thinking to staff relations and dealing with dissatisfied or angry constituents.
I was offered the opportunity to review Now What? Throughout the 190-page book, I found myself continually stopping and pondering thoughtful questions the author posited, and reflecting on the recommendations he makes.
For the sake of full disclosure, I am not and have never been elected to public office. So for me, answering many of the self-reflection questions required me to think about stories where others suffered the pitfalls Larry cautioned against. Without fail, examples sprung forward.
Among the many topics that Larry addresses is patience – not only with the meticulous nature of affecting lasting change through elected policies, but also the patience to learn and to listen.
Some of the traits that make people the best candidates can inhibit their ability to operate as effective elected leaders. Candidates are self-driven, singularly focused on their individual win on Election Day. That confident determination can border on arrogance, but is a necessary evil when challenging a field of candidates – especially if working to unseat an incumbent. However, experience campaigning provides about as much training for elected leadership as learning to ride a bike prepares a toddler to be an airplane pilot.
In Now What? Larry talks about the importance of not brashly acting to implement campaign promises. Before changes should be attempted, before bold policies introduced, it is imperative that new officials humble themselves to become a student of their organization. Talking to employees, meeting with CEOs, and mending fences from campaign battles is a far more effective path to accomplishing agenda items than wielding a broad sword. Even when campaigns are focused on a message of change, local governments operate at an incremental speed – at best. Patience is imperative.
Policies are rarely approved all-at-once, and are never approved with a majority of one. Instead, the once-singular candidate has to focus on a majority-minded three or more. Without reaching the magic number through cooperative coalition building, egos can be counterproductive.
Now What? A Practical Guide for Newly Elected Officials reaches further into the challenges that I highlighted here. Throughout the book, Larry calls upon the advice he received from his former clients, PublicCEO readers, elected officials, and professional staff. Together, their stories, his explanations, and the lessons imparted make Now What? an important tool to help transform candidates into officials.
Easy to read and insightful, Larry offers another reason that as Editor of PublicCEO, I am pleased to have his friendship and professional support.
For more information about Now What? or to find out how to obtain a copy, please contact Larry Tramutola at firstname.lastname@example.org