'To be part of a change for the better'

By: Chad Vander Veen for The Telegraph
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In the wake of last week’s City Council election, The Telegraph asked all seven candidates (three incumbents and four challengers) a few questions about the race, in which all three incumbents were returned to office.

Three of the challengers – Roger Gaylord, Jennifer Lane and Chad Vander Veen — accepted an invitation from The Telegraph to write a guest column about the experience of running for council, their motivations, and their reactions when they learned the outcome.

When I saw the results on Tuesday night, I essentially began going through the stages of grief. First there was denial. I was sure there was no possible way I could have come in last place. I thought there must be more votes waiting to be counted (there were; nothing changed). I could not believe that being endorsed by the Sacramento Bee didn’t seem to have helped my results and that all the work I’d put in amounted to the worst possible finish. After staring at the numbers for a long time, the anger came next. I found myself upset with everything — the incumbents, the other challengers, the voters, the system, and most of all myself. I was angry that people apparently didn’t read the paper (no offense). I was angry at myself for failing. I was angry that the status quo defeated me. Then came the depression. When you spend virtually every waking moment of several months pondering a goal, having that goal annihilated in an instant left me feeling really low. Finally, acceptance has come. I accept my failure is not anyone’s fault but my own. Nothing in this life is impossible — all things are achievable when one puts in the appropriate amount of work. I did not do enough to win. That is the reality. The incumbents didn’t beat me; the other challengers didn’t beat me. I beat me. 

I am eternally grateful to those who supported me and voted for me. I met so many wonderful Folsomites and reconnected with many others as well. So to those people — thank you, thank you, thank you. To those who didn’t vote for me, I would say that I’m sorry I didn’t do enough to get my message and vision to you. My job as a candidate was to reach you and share my campaign with you and I didn’t do that. I would also challenge those who voted for the incumbents to really examine their decision. Change makes people uncomfortable. I get that. But just because something seems great, often all it takes is a little bit
of digging to understand that there is a lot that can be improved. It struck me that local politics in Folsom is in one particular way quite similar to Washington D.C. in that everyone hates Congress and complains how awful they are, yet more than 80 percent of the time incumbents get re-elected. It’s the “everyone else is terrible except for our guy” mindset. I don’t mean to say our council is terrible; rather, I would encourage people who did vote for them to ask themselves why. Was it because they thought the incumbents were truly the best? Was it because they merely recognized the name? Was it because some candidates could afford more signs than others? Whatever the reason, ultimately I want people in Folsom to pay attention to what’s happening in our city.

Local politics has so much greater impact in our lives than what goes on in DC — yet politically that is what most people pay attention to. Local politics is where the rubber meets the road. So I implore people to start looking at our water supply, at our transportation issues, at the continuing sprawl, and at the threat that “more of the same” actually poses. It’s OK to be happy with the way things are, but it’s not OK to ignore the fact that more of the same might make for a much less pleasant future. To the incumbents, all I ask is that you be open and honest with the people of Folsom. There is so much happening that people don’t understand, and it’s disingenuous to say you’re being transparent merely because all the documents are online someplace. People have a right to know what’s happening, and I don’t think the current council has done an adequate job
of making sure the public is being either well-informed or well-heard.

I do plan to run again. This is my second campaign. I ran for state Assembly in 2010. I came in last in that race, too. So maybe elected office isn’t in the cards for me. But I’m not going to give up. I have been working in and with government for over a decade. It’s what I studied in school. It’s what I believe in. Government is our most powerful tool to effect change — both for good or ill. My passion is to be part of a change for the better. So yes, I will definitely run again. Maybe for City Council, maybe for something else. After all, it might be easier to get into Congress than to win a seat on this council.