The truth of the matter is that I had a long, convoluted, blog post already ginned up to answer this question: are you going to run again? I weighed cons and pros. I paced up and down my street, gesticulating and debating with myself like a crazy man. My neighbors have gotten used to it I guess. Nobody called the cops in any event. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the "publish" button for that post: I ran into a buddy of mine the other day that I hadn't seen in a long time. He used to live in Manassas but moved about 5 years ago. He keeps up on what's going on in Manassas. He knew that I was up for election again this year. He urged me to run again and asked if I was considering it. I told him I was struggling with the decision and he said "well, it's pretty simple really".
I raised an eyebrow (OG Star Trek syle) and said "go on".
"It's simple really. Two things: do you like doing it and can you make a difference"?
That's the type of insightful observation that only someone removed from the details can make. I've been killing myself over this. So:
First things first. Do I like it? Yes, I like public service. It's cool to be able to help. Doing Manassas Next was great. Governing in tough times is challenging. Settling a Federal lawsuit was hard work. Hiring a great City Manager (twice) was a challenge. I like it rough – it makes you grow as a person. However, this job also has an unpleasant aspect: politics. The deal-making part of politics I'm pretty good at and enjoy. The destructive part I despise and politics in Manassas has become somewhat more destructive over the past couple of years. I experienced it directly at the last convention in my run for Mayor and I didn't like it. I watched a pretty vicious campaign unfold against Mr. Wolfe not too long ago. Recounting someone's record is fine. People in elected office should be held accountable. What's been going on recently is not something I'm interested in doing. More importantly, that stuff made a definite impression on my family. If I didn't much care for these things, my family reeeaalllyyy didn't like it. People on the blogs even commented on my daughter. Really? A 15 year old girl? My continued existence is direct evidence that my wife is one of the kindest people in the world. When she's ready to strangle someone, there's a problem.
Second things second: Do I think I can make a difference? I believe I have already made a difference. Can I continue to make a difference? Boy, that's an open question. The rate of change has definitely slowed over the past 2 years. I guess I don't think there's the votes on the Council to pursue an aggressive agenda of moving Manassas forward. Progress for this Council has been setting up a CIP. I'm glad we did it but a CIP seems more like a requirement to me. I'd prefer that the Council was spending time on big-picture policy issues. That's my idea of making a difference long-term. People speak in hushed, reverential tones of the leaders who had the nerve to construct our own lake. We need to be working on the "lakes" of today. I'm not throwing rocks, it's just the facts as I see them. Put differently, my views on what we should be doing are out of step with the majority and I'm just one guy. Does that make me some sort of misunderstood genius or tortured soul who has singular insight? No. My colleagues are smart folks with their own gifts. We just differ on how to proceed. Of course, that doesn't make it any easier for me…:)
So, the calculus conducted inside my skull says no. My pride says yes – I should be able to get this done. I have prevailed in far more difficult circumstances. However, my life isn't that simple. It isn't really about me anymore. I've a family. I'm responsible for my employees. Responsible for their salaries, health insurance and their families as well. I met with my team at work and my family during this process. While I didn't hear anyone saying no, I didn't hear a lot of yes either. I think my family wants me at home more. My team at work believes in our mission and I'm excited to work with that group of folks.
At this point it seems as though I'm avoiding the issue so: No, I won't run as a republican in this election. I've been under a lot of pressure to run again but I'm going to have to disappoint those people. I appreciate the calls, emails, drop-ins and lunch meetings but I can't see the fundamentals changing much and I will not run for office just to "be on City Council" If I'm going to do this, it's going to be go big – big picture policy solutions – or go home. I have not had much luck getting that discussion going so I'm going to posit that Einstein was right and go do something else for awhile.