Giving back to the community | Guest column

By Nathan Butler

Chairman, SJC Republican Party

About six years ago I showed up at a presidential caucus for the first time.

Activists somehow roped me into being the county coordinator for the Dan Matthews for Congress campaign. Not really knowing what I was getting into, I gamely made some calls. The very first phone call I made I got yelled at – and these were people in my own party. They were convinced that I was some off-island political hack who was part of the problem.

When I hung up the phone, I remember feeling profoundly confused. If just stepping one toe into the arena made me part of the problem, how could our political outcomes ever be improved? Perhaps more relevantly, why try if you will only be blamed?

I have since then learned that political activity is not necessarily related to ideological extremity. In fact, many of the people I meet on a day-to-day basis in both parties are much more extreme in their views than I am. If anything, it is often the case that the less engaged the person, the more extreme the views, and the more convinced that the system is broken.

Even so, I find that the kinds of people who care for other’s feelings, listen to others, and are honest, tend to be that way precisely because they don’t like conflict. And that makes public life hard. Public life is the art of resolving the irreconcilable. Who really wants to make next-to-no money (or none) in a public leadership role, where everything you do will be seen in the worst light possible and you will be treated like part of the problem? The answer? Not very many. For this reason, I do my best to be considerate, even when I sharply disagree with a public figure (as a Republican here that’s not uncommon…)

But there isn’t anyone else. A couple months ago, the Journal reported nearly 50 vacancies on county boards. This week is filing week for a number of offices, many of them will go uncontested. Who knows if they are qualified? But I’m grateful they are willing.

This week, consider your skills and what you have to offer to your community and decide to give back to your community. And if you can’t, maybe give those, who do step up, the benefit of the doubt — perhaps even appreciation. Maybe then we would have an easier time getting good people to take the plunge.

Go to the SJC elections office website at for more information. The deadline is Friday.