What's it like to serve on a borough council, board of township supervisors, or a school board?

Of course you have the power to make decisions on important issues.

But your telephone will probably ring at the most inopportune times.

When you're out for dinner with your spouse, you'll have people come to you table and stand over your food, venting either about complaints they have or about a decision you made.

You'll be criticized frequently.

If you own a business, you might even lose some customers because of what you say or how you vote on issues. Just ask David Hiles, a member of the Panther Valley School Board who last week announced his resignation.

Although he didn't say it was his reason for resigning, he mentioned that a customer told him they were no longer going to patronize his business because of a decision he made.

It's not the first time we've heard about members of the public coercing school board members or other public officials at their private businesses.

Little wonder few individuals choose to run for public office. In most municipalities for the May Primary election, there are no contests. In some towns, there aren't even enough candidates to fill all the open positions.

It's good that people write Letters to the Editor, attend public meetings and vent, and even contact their public officials for their views on specific matters.

However, if individuals are at every council meeting complaining about one issue after another, or they disagree so strongly with what is happening on their local school board or council that they think about taking personal actions, then those individuals should run for a seat on the board and try the right way to change things.

The overwhelming majority of the local school board members, borough councilmen, and township supervisors serve with their hearts. They want to do what's right for their respective community.

One thing's for sure, no matter what decision they make, it's not going to please everybody. It's usually the people unhappy with the decisions who vent the most.

Another reason why local office holders are often treated with poor respect is the trickle down effect of national and state politics.

People see the problems politicians are creating in Washington and Harrisburg - funding cuts, voting strictly on political lines instead of individuality, regulations not favored by the majority, even illegal activities - and they equate this with politics in general.

It's not easy serving the public. When you serve on a school board or municipality panel, you expect some flak.

But not to the extent that individuals will try to hurt your business because you don't agree with their views.

Hiles served the people of the Panther Valley for many years on the school board. It's unfortunate some people are so shallow that they have to take cheap shots to get their way. And taking business away from an individual who is helping his community, without any financial reimbursement, is wrong.

Little wonder why there are fewer candidates for public office.

We should appreciate those individuals who do choose to serve. If we don't agree with their decisions, we can let them know without being hostile.

Meanwhile, give thought to running for office yourself in the future. Make a difference. It's your community. It's your family and friends you would be representing.

Those people seeking offices are doing something positive. They're to be commended, not condemned.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com