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The choices for president of the United States are clear. Hillary Clinton on one side, Donald Trump on the other.

Both candidates will be starring in their respective party conventions this month. Trump’s stage begins Monday in Cleveland while Clinton’s time is set July 25 in Philadelphia. Each candidate will be using the conventions to further pitch their campaigns to American voters via a saturation of printed news stories, television airtime and a flurry of social media tweets and posts.

On a more personal level, every municipal office in Cullman County is in campaign season. From the City of Cullman to Good Hope, mayoral and council seats are on the line. Cullman’s school board is also in election season.

The qualifying period for candidates to step forward ends Tuesday and is simple process carried out at city or town halls.

A few races are already contested for incumbents. Other seats are being vacated by officeholders who have served a few terms. While the pageantry of local elections may not rival the elaborate stages, entertainment and starts that glitz the national conventions, the importance of electing competent leaders in our communities is of immeasurable importance.

Cullman County is widely recognized as a strong community with plenty of educational, recreational and job opportunities for its citizens to enjoy. With just more than 80,000 people populating the towns, cities and communities of the area the local elections require some careful decisions by voters.

Government can and should be an effective partner in creating growing communities. Elected officials who bring vision, courage and know-how to a council or school board will invest tax dollars with the type of care and responsibility that provides the services and quality of life we all want.

Important to effective government is also transparency. The men and women who operate openly concerning issues — good or bad — build confidence and valuable engagement from the public. After all, government in this country belongs to the people.

Many people will spend hours watching Clinton and Trump in their respective moments of ascension in their respective political parties. Nonetheless, we encourage local voters to engage with candidates in the local communities. Take time to question and study their intent for holding public office, whether they are newcomers to politics or incumbents. Do your best to elect those who listen, study and evaluate issues fairly. And by all means, ensure that those candidates intend to keep you informed through open meetings and discussions.

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