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While walking around town knocking on doors and bugging people at dinner time, I‘ve heard more than a few mentions of our “community values.”

At the League of Women Voters Candidate  Forum, Hanna Harn asked us to “take a moment to describe what you feel the values and the culture of the district’s constituents are.” I gave a one-minute answer about working together to achieve our shared goals, naively assuming community agreement on those shared goals.

Since then, I’ve been accused of being a far-left extremist; a union stooge; and an outsider. None of those things are true. In this election, I’m a dad, husband, local business owner, and concerned citizen seeking to put time and effort toward making our schools better every day. We’ve had outside interest groups pushing our community to embrace a Christian Nationalist worldview. We’ve had allegations of the teacher’s union attempting to buy the election. It seems that many have narrowed their specific goals to the detriment of the greater good.

When we get right down to it, we all want healthy friends and neighbors with a comfortable roof over their heads, food on their tables, and love in their hearts. We want them to have fulfilling employment opportunities, a living wage, a safe and engaging place to send their kids while they work, and time off to spend with the ones they love.

Because of the work of previous generations of local leaders, every one of us has either chosen to stay here or made significant sacrifices to move our families to this special place. Instead of focusing on narrow special interests, we must protect those community values that kept or led us here.

For us, what changed from my first visit in 1998 to when we moved here in 2018, was not just the new restaurants, hotels, bars, and shops, though it certainly influenced the decision (thanks to our local business folks), it was also the opportunity to own a business and make a good living. It was the availability of quality public education with amazing potential. It was the focus on being outside and healthy living. It was in the growing art and music scene. It was, and is, a community surrounding itself with what matters.

Our task is to protect the community values that provide the opportunities for all of us to live and succeed here so that the next generation has even better opportunities to do so. As Election Day approaches, and if you haven’t yet voted, consider which candidates will be best able to protect those community values while improving future opportunities for our kids. And, cast your ballot accordingly.

Thank you to the teachers, staff, and volunteers who knocked on hundreds of doors, those who organized public candidate forums, those who wrote letters to the editor and spread the word to your friends and neighbors. No matter the outcome of this election, our school district will be in good hands. And, as long as we remain committed to each other, we can look forward to a bright future for our kids and this community.

Casey Martin

Candidate for Buena Vista Board of Education – District 1