The Town of Berlin’s election Tuesday, such as it was, did end up being a squeaker in the only contest on the ballot, as 4th District incumbent Dean Burrell edged out challenger Tony Weeg by a mere two votes.
Burrell, who has run uncontested numerous times, took 51.3 percent of the total tally to gain another four years in office after facing an actual challenge to his incumbency.
To put that 51.3 percent margin of victory in perspective, the district’s total turnout in this year’s election was just 72 voters, or about 10 percent of the people who could have cast ballots had they wanted to participate.
This sorry voter response is no reflection on Burrell, who’s faithfully represented his constituency for many years, but it does say something about the conscious decision of citizens to disengage themselves from municipal affairs.
And it’s not just the 4th District. The two other names on the ballot this year, Steve Green and Jay Knerr, faced no challengers and therefore walked into office by default.
Again, this has nothing to do with their abilities, qualifications, or desire to serve the public, but it does suggest that, aside from the volunteers who serve on the town’s boards and commissions, civic engagement by many others is limited to those instances when someone either wants or is mad about something.
This situation isn’t peculiar to Berlin, of course, as small towns everywhere have trouble finding people willing to serve for a variety of reasons. One of those would be that many people don’t have the time, while another is citizens’ unwillingness to endure the frequent criticism that comes with the job.
That being said, hats off to Burrell, Green and Knerr for stepping up to accept these posts in spite of the demands on their time and, perhaps, their patience.
As for the citizens who prefer disengagement from local politics and government, you are entitled to your choice, but you also must appreciate the irony when government takes actions with which you vociferously disagree.