Council Catastrophe

Okay, so I blew it.

I’m trying to get involved in local government. So I applied to be an alternate for the Development Review Board and towards that end attended last night’s council meeting so council members could meet me in person along with the other applicants.

It had already been a long day. I finished my “day job” of checking 17 academic papers, did laundry, and cooked dinner. I showered, shaved, and put on my nicest set of clothes that really aren’t that nice anymore but so it goes.

I sweltered inside the council chambers, feeling overdressed in my jacket but unsure if I wanted to remove it since I was sweating enough to be designated a floodplain.

A couple of agenda items were completed and then the council members had each (there were only three) of us stand up and say a little about ourselves. Then they left the room for an “executive session” and came back five minutes later to announce their pick of the two that were needed.

I of course wasn’t one of the two. If it were otherwise, I might have started this post with “I did it”. But as it stands, “I blew it” pretty much sums it up.

Now, granted, the other two had more government experience than me. However, I think what really hurt me is that I did not present myself very well. I mean the kind of not very well where I wouldn’t have picked me either, as painful as that is to admit.

Not being used to a microphone, I started off not talking into it. And when I finally did talk into it, I talked way too fast, rambled, and didn’t make eye contact. Part of it was nervousness and overcompensating for my natural introverted tendency. Also, my eyes tend to go all elsewhere when I’m gathering my thoughts, which I was trying to do for all the good it did me.

I was a right train wreck that went on for a brief, yet agonizingly long piece of time. After the derailment, Council Member Alan Weiss asked me what I thought the purpose of the Development Review Board was.

Here’s where the ability to gather one’s thoughts would have come in particularly handy. And they did gather, but unfortunately they clumped together like wet leaves in a compost heap. When I spoke, words sputtered out of my mouth with the grace of a cat coughing up a hairball.

I knew the point I wanted to make but… well, so it goes.

I was more than a little crushed. Not just because of not getting selected, but because I know I am better than how I presented myself; that I have a lot more to offer than what my village idiot performance revealed.

I did stay for the entire council meeting and found it wholly interesting despite my intermittent self-loathing interruptions of internal dialogue: stupid, worthless, failure, and the quintessential, all-encompassing never succeed at anything.

I worked hard at conquering those internal demons so I could gain from the meeting and not lose the forest for all my rotted trees.

I enjoyed hearing about the affairs of the city and noted the issues each member brought forth. Mr. Guerlain discussed concerns of his constituents about actual crimes versus what gets reported in the police log in The Times Argus. Mrs. Walsh fielded questions about a proposal to use Solar Panels to provide Montpelier with electricity.

There were many other issues that were discussed, including parking on State street, arts funding, and a proposal under consideration by the Development Review Board to build a new housing complex on a lot in a historic district, which would first require approval for demolishing the existing condemned property.

What I found most interesting, though, was Mr. Weiss, who had asked me the question during my botched presentation attempt. He in fact asked pointed questions throughout the meeting; the kind of questions that reminded me of my scholar husband.

Not in substance, as his concerns were different, but in the phrasing.

For example, one such concern of his started with “In Section 5.5. it says…”  where he went on to point out the possible implications of that ambiguous wording and questioning what exactly it would mean in real world application if they took up the proposal it referenced.

My husband’s well-informed opinions are always grounded in thorough reading and research done well before uttering first words on the matter under discussion. You’re unlikely to slip anything by him. He will tear any loose wording and faulty arguments apart. I reckon it’s the same with Mr. Weiss.

It’s the next day and I’m trying to think of how to go forward after embarrassing myself so completely. My mind is still reeling with the lingering yet ever useless “should have’s” that have been resonating since last night.

But the bottom line is “I didn’t” and I do still want to get involved.

So I need to get over my self-pitying self and move forward. I’m not sure what the best way is to do so, but I at least know the right question to ask, as it’s the only question that really ever matters:

What now?