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The stage is set for a radical change in the way Junction City and Geary County are governed.

Just in the last two days, we’ve heard that City Commissioners Mick McCallister, Jim Sands and Mike Ryan, as well as longtime Unified School District 475 board member Carolyn Gaston, will not be seeking reelection in November. School board members LaDonna Junghans, Brian Field and William Brooks are also facing the end of their terms.

In my conversations with readers, voters and local leaders over the past few months, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re living in a moment that may make or break Junction City’s future. Decisions made in the next six to 12 months could determine the direction of this community for years to come.

As my old boss Alix Kunkle wrote in his Thursday column, we can all help with economic development, but we can also help in the public sector as well. There is no greater way to affect real change than by taking part in local government. And there is no more effective way to take part in local government than as an elected official.

For all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds federal and state elections in this country, it’s at the city and county levels that real change takes place.

Those on the Junction City Commission and the USD 475 school board have much more of a chance to make real, lasting change quickly than anyone at the federal level.

Democracy is in its purest form at the local level, especially in a town this size. This community needs a robust election to stir up the status quo and bring about some new ideas.

I’ve heard a lot of perspectives from community members in my short time as editor. For every affirmation that Junction City is a fine community with a lot of potential, there is a cry that it’s headed for ruin. I’ve always believed that one should not complain unless one is prepared to take action. For those of you that feel your town or school district might be on the wrong track, now is the time to make an effort to change its course.

The job of a local elected official isn’t easy. It’s thankless, it doesn’t pay well, and it’s a significant time commitment. It may be hard to go out in public after you’re elected. You may never run out of people who have ideas on how you should do your job.

But it’s important. And the previous sentence is an understatement.

There might never be a better time to run for office in Junction City.

As of this writing, there are 14 business days between now and 12 p.m. June 1 when candidate registration ends.

And so far, only one person has registered as a candidate.

Junction City needs more than that. Not only because there are four elected seats that have been completely vacated and three more potentially up for grabs, but because real democracy can only exist with an abundance of choice.

As the editor of the Daily Union, I can assure you that my staff and I are prepared to write an abundance of candidate profiles to help inform voters of different viewpoints and help them make educated choices.

But first, we need the candidates.

This November Junction City could potentially see one of the most consequential elections in its long and storied history. It’s time to step up and decide: do you want to be on the front lines or the sidelines?

DEREK SMITH is the editor of the Junction City Daily Union.

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