Covering, and sometimes observing, city council and school board meetings can be an eye-opening, and sometimes entertaining, experience. From Kansas City to Branson to Brown County — one thing remains the same. Certain individuals find it necessary to make it their life’s mission to degrade and embarrass those who are elected. And, the last time I checked, folks who are elected were put in positions of authority by a majority of the voting population.

With that said, I understand, that by nature, people are not perfect, and some run for offices, hoping to win and push a personal agenda. I personally have not seen that in Brown County. If I am wrong about that — don’t tell me I am wrong. Prove it.

My observations lead me to believe that in Brown County, those who serve do so because they desire to take a leadership role in their community, with the hopes of making improvements and providing feedback or, to quote an overused campaign slogan, “be a voice for the people.”

Most candidates, unless they are naive, understand that “pleasing everyone, all of the time” is not possible. Issues need to be dealt with, and sometimes, the results of those individual and/or collective decisions will not be popular.

To me, running for any office takes courage. Why? Because doing so means inevitably angering those who disagree with decisions made. That is one aspect that makes America great. If you disagree with elected officials, you can publicly disagree. But, there is a right way of handling said disagreements — and a wrong way.

All of the wrong ways start in the local coffee house, at the water cooler or any other unnamed location where it is not uncommon for rumors to be spread and lies to be told. This may be unconventional, but I have a suggestion. Go to a city council meeting, a school board meeting or call your elected officials and come to understand current goings-on instead of listening to information from someone else who knows just as little as you do.

I have personally been in attendance during several different city council and school board meetings when an agenda item that was discussed in open forum was somehow distorted during after-meeting conferences between citizens.

I like to refer to this type of selective hearing as twisted eardrum syndrome. What occurs during this sickness is the following: 1. Words enter through one ear. 2. They become twisted somewhere in the ear canal near the eardrum. 3. When the words are repeated, they become twisted, thus, misinforming an innocent victim, who could possibly also contract twisted eardrum syndrome.

Another wrong way is being disruptive and rude during meetings. Council members and trustees are not elected to be the personal punching bag for the public. If there is a legitimate concern, contact a council member, trustee or even the mayor.

If that does not provide the desired results, then request to be put on the agenda. At that point, be respectful, voice concerns and behave in an adult and mature fashion. It can be done, I have seen several folks handle themselves that way — the right way.

Interrupting discussion — the wrong way. Attempting to initiate verbal altercations — the wrong way.

I’ve got it. If those individuals elected are not living up to specific expectations, there is something that can be done. Run for office. It is that simple.

Running for any elected office takes guts. Standing on the sidelines causing problems — not so much.

Rick Phelps writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at