It’s election time again – and this time, it’s personal.

Well, personal might be getting carried away. But it certainly is local, and that makes it more personal.

You won’t be voting for U.S. president, or congress or even state officials. You will be voting for your city and school board leaders. You will be voting on offices closer to home, for individuals who are your neighbors, who you see at the grocery store, at your church, or in your own work place.

These are the individuals who will determine what type of police coverage you have, how many firefighters can respond to emergencies, whether your streets get plowed when it snows, and whether potholes get filled in a timely manner. They help determine whether businesses can open in your community, what teachers are hired to educate your children and what resources those teachers have to help them get that job done.

This is a municipal election, and it takes place April 2. Despite the important work done by these local elected officials, turnout is often low for municipal elections. Participation is often low, too, as elected officials routinely run unopposed.

There are a few exceptions this year, most notably in Branson where five seats have more than one candidate. In Branson, at least three seats are open each year – four in years, like this one, when the mayor’s seat is up. The candidates run for two-year seats. The reason there is a fifth race is because a Ward III seat was vacated earlier this year, so someone will be elected to fill the remaining year of that term. Otherwise, everyone is running for a full two-year term.

There is also at least one contested race in Forsyth, Rockaway Beach and Branson West.

To see all the races, check for the Jan 19 story “Branson elections to feature five contested races.”

At least two area school boards will have races, too. Branson and Reeds Spring school districts each have four candidates running for two spots. Those are three-year terms.

I want to extend a congratulatory handshake to everyone who signed up to run for office. It takes a certain level of nerve, and commitment, to want to run for public office. As long as you are running for honorable reasons (All of you are, right?) you are giving the voters a valuable gift: A vote that matters.

Over the next couple of months, The Branson Tri-Lakes News will be providing coverage of the municipal election. Hopefully, we can help the voters make the best decisions possible.

Best of luck to everyone.

Let’s all shake hands. Now, break and go to your corners.

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