What is the role of an elected official

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By Carl Hendrickson, For The Call

Election Day has come and gone.

No more candidate commercials. No more mailings, telephone calls or knocks on the door.

Those we elected will serve us for two, four or six years.

I am sure we are all glad that another election cycle is behind us. The candidates, winners or losers, are glad to be finished with the campaigning.

What is their role? What should we expect of these winners? Will we want to reelect them in the future?

The basic functions of those we elected are two-fold. Law-enacting and providing service to constituents. How well they accomplish these two roles may indicate how well they will do in the next election.

There are those lawmakers who consider themselves delegates. A delegate considers himself or herself as a mirror of the constituents. The voting behavior of the delegate will reflect the wishes of the voters. He or she will often survey the constituents to obtain their views on important issues.

On the other hand are the lawmakers who consider themselves as trustees. Trustees believe that they were elected because constituents trusted their judgment. They vote using this judgment even if inconsistent with the wishes of the voters.

A politico usually votes as a trustee until pushed by constituents to cast a vote in another manner. This is why it is important to be in contact with elected officials on important issues.

Finally, there is the partisan officeholder who does not use his or her judgment or vote as constituents wish. The partisan votes strictly along party lines. This may be okay if the party reflects the wishes of the voters. If not, the voters do not have a voice in government.

Constituent services fall within four major categories:

First, and probably most important, is to help with problems with government. As a state legislator, I or my staff often heard from constituents who needed an advocate before a state agency.

Second, government service is a great opportunity for students. Lawmakers assist student constituents in obtaining internships in government.

The third phase of constituent service is to arrange visits to the capitol building or other government offices. As a state representative, schools and students often visited Jefferson City to see democracy in action.

Finally, elected officials formally recognize deserving constituents with proclamations or other honors. As a state representative I honored many students with the Glory of Missouri Award.