See how to run

Nick Della Volpe
Features columnist

Should you seek one of the five Knoxville City Council seats up for election this year? The primary is just seven months away. You and your family must decide if you have the time and the inclination to serve.

To start: Examine your district boundaries at knoxmpc.org. Visit knoxvotes.org for rules and forms. Get a petition signed by at least 25 registered voters from your district (get 50 to be safe). Appoint a treasurer before you raise or spend the first dime.

Ground game: Plan how you reach potential voters and persuade them to support you by their votes, campaign contributions, signs, and by contacting others to support you. That’s a mouthful. Let’s break it down.

You have to ask people to vote for you. Talk to them in person if possible or use your phone, email or other social media. Recruit friends to help. Find the active voters. Of roughly 20,000 people in your district, fewer than 3,000 will actually vote. Get a disc of the regular voters from the election office and get your message to them.

Money: How do you ask friends and strangers to cough up dough for your campaign? It feels kind of creepy. You hate to be a mooch. … Get over it! You will need to raise at least $10,000 to buy several hundred signs, send two or three voter mail-outs, and maybe buy a few radio and newspaper ads.

Name Recognition: Most folks will not be focused on the race until voting time is at hand (August primary and November general). Repetition means recognition. Save your main bucks for showtime. But you will need signs earlier to let folks know you are running, and maybe pay for a mailout and/or a meet-the-candidate gathering. Meanwhile, keep talking to people. Show up at community meetings. Ask for their vote. If you survive the August primary, you will then be running citywide – so yeah, more money is needed. Those last few weeks are a sprint with lots of additional ground to cover. Also, be sure to file the city and state financial disclosure reports on the schedule set by rules.

Platform: This need not be formal. Why are you the best person for the job? What distinguishes you from the two or three other serious candidates in your primary? Write it out. Talk it over with friends. Keep it simple.

You are asking to represent about 20,000 people in your district (and ultimately 190,000 people in the city at large). You will be reviewing budgets and contracts, deciding zoning questions, and helping to set public policy for the future through ordinances.

You should expect phone calls and emails from confused or angry citizens dealing with issues that confront them – and you are now their knowledgeable ombudsman channeling help from city departments and workers. You understand how the local government works.

Do you have the time and the inclination to work for the betterment of your community?

Then wade in, the water is fine.

Nick Della Volpe, an attorney, represents District 4 on Knoxville City Council.

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