Santa Clara University

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Her Honor

Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, looks at ethical dilemmas, scandals, and best practices in government.

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  •  Post-election Advice

    Friday, Nov. 5, 2010

    The greatest temptation of a newly elected public official might be to jump in, head first. As with diving into shallow waters, this can be very dangerous.

    During the frenzy of the campaign season, friends were made and lost, enemies kept track of perceived slights, and the voters were filled with both hope and despair.

    My advice to those who are transitioning from candidate to officeholder is to begin your new role by first thanking all who helped you. Be especially grateful to family members and close friends who provided the 24-hour-a-day support that you needed.

    Reach out to your opponents. Understand that although you won, some percentage of the voters chose the other candidate. If you ended the campaign on bad terms with anyone, extend the olive branch. It may be difficult, but this simple action will set the stage for future success.

    Learn all you can about your new job before you start making sweeping changes. Things actually look different from inside than they do when you are outside the organization.  Ask questions about policies and procedures, and take special care to learn the ethics laws and the values behind them.

    To those of you who were unchallenged, don't be content with your "mandate." It could be that people were so tired and fed up that nobody wanted to run against you. Remember your duty to your constituents should be as vigorous now as it was when you were first elected.

    If you'd like to know more about how to succeed as a newly elected public official, visit our Web site. You'll learn about the unavoidabe ethical dilemmas you will face in office and how to make ethical decisions.

    And if you subscribe to this blog, you'll have a chance to become a part of an important ongoing dialog.

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