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  • Writer's picturecarolineforsalem

An independent thinker?

With only a handful of days left before the November 2nd election, constituents' heads are full of spinning questions and issues and hot-jargon words popular with candidates. There's one question however that won't be asked by the League of Women Voters or in a candidate forum - and it's one of the most common questions I've been asked at the doors and in private constituent conversations: Are you an independent thinker?

This question fascinates me. I'd say it even baffles me except that it is genuinely coming from neighbors who don't know me well so I always answer it clearly, honestly and with facts, and surprise which I hope is balanced with a little bit of grace. Anyone who has ever spent any time with me whether personally, professionally - in the office or on the stage, or in a volunteer capacity knows that I am nothing if not entirely myself and totally independent of just about any influence you could name.

So much so in fact I'd say it definitely gets in the way of "winning friends and influencing people" (to borrow from the title of the popular 1936 book by Dale Carnegie, which I confess I've never read). I'm earnest and honest, fiercely my own person both by nature and nurture, generally about as transparent as I can be while remaining diplomatic and productive, and I'm not concerned by the power, position, or the influence of others. And, I'll add...

I approach every conversation as an opportunity to learn something new - whether about the topic at hand or humanity. I am confident that every difficult conversation makes me a better person, a better communicator, and a better leader. I enjoy surrounding myself with folks who don't always agree with me - I'm not into keeping "yes" people by my side and I'm honest when struggling in a conversation. You can bet that I will always ask for more information, further explanation, and give you my honest take.

A little anecdote: I was at dinner once with the CEO of our consultancy's top client company. She looked at me and asked "why do you think there's such resistance to the roll out of this new platform?" The CEO of my company was seated next to me - he had been talking about engagement and transformative communications for an hour (he's brilliant by the way). I looked at her square in the eye and I said "because you never asked them what they needed or wanted; to them, they don't realize this is a solution because you never did the stakeholder analysis of your own people; they're not bought in - the first click will always be the hardest if they don't care." About half way through the statement, I was pretty sure I was going to be fired. I wasn't. That memory still gives me a knot in my stomach, but I also hold it close. That moment taught me that the risk of speaking your mind is high but it also uniquely positions you as a trustworthy advisor, if maybe not such a good "yes man."

So, let's be clear: Yes, I'm an independent thinker. I'm a good listener. I do my homework. I'll always do my best to translate what I hear from neighbors into a position in the Council Chambers and when we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, I won't hide from it. I'm willing to have hard and honest conversations. I'll always seek to find common ground - something we can agree on and build from there. My goal is always to be productive and constructive. As a City Councillor, I vow to act in service to my Ward 2 neighbors and to Salem, in that order, and you can count on me for an independent take on any situation.

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