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What You Need to Know to Run for Office

U.S. Capitol

September 18, 2018

Being a Public Servant allows your voice to be heard and more importantly allows you to represent the voices of others. From volunteering, to getting involved locally, to running for office yourself — there are a variety of ways to engage in a political and/or governmental role.  Civic engagement is the first step to making a difference — volunteer for something you have a passion for or a cause that you want to see protected or where you see improvements are needed. This service can ignite a desire to serve at a more impactful level.

Be True to Yourself

Passion is essential in whatever path you choose, but it is vital especially when choosing where to get involved. Discovering what energizes you and what lights a fire that propels you to give of your time and resources is critical. Being true to yourself and authentic most likely enhances leads to a successful campaign. Staying true to your values will maximize your momentum when running for office.

Where Do I Start?

There are a vast number of positions you can run for such school board, city council, state Legislature to U.S. Congress and everything in between. Choosing a role that works with your current schedule and priorities is essential — running for office takes time. In addition, knowing the requirements for the position is a good starting place.  Do I need to be a resident of a certain area? Believing that you can make a positive change is the foundation for running for office. People will want to know why they should vote for you.

There Is No Perfect Image

You do not need to look or sound a certain way, and you do not need a tenured political background. You need a vision and a clear path on how you plan to address issues of value to your constituents. Your personal journey is the most powerful tool you have — tell it boldly and proudly. Believing in yourself and your message is the best way to connect with constituents.

Get On the Ballot

Once you choose to run, the next step is get signatures of support. Many positions require a certain number of signatures to be viewed as a viable candidate to be on the ballot. Getting more than required is always recommended — putting yourself out there in front of your constituents is vital to garnering support. Running for Office requires that you participate in fundraising. You can’t be afraid of asking others for financial support.

Visibility Is the Name of the Game

Once you decide to run, you must do all that you can to reach the voting public.. In order to do this, you need to be prepared to have face to face encounters with as many voters as you can. Visibility is the key.  This means long nights of knocking on doors and sharing who you are and what your goals are along with countless parade appearances paired with endless fundraisers. The work is worth it.

Support System

Running for office is very demanding. The key to pushing through is having a strong support system — family, friends, and volunteers who believe in your mission and your candidacy. Having people behind you who will help many task of running a campaign.  No detail is too small. You have to delegate and be willing to ask for support.  People want to help and be a part of your journey. Make sure you spend time with family and loves one who remind you why you are making the leap to run. Having people who embrace your mission and believe in your vision, and push you forward will make a huge difference in your journey. 


The decision to run for office is admirable — you are representing the voice of others and it is your responsibility to fight for them. Be proud of yourself for taking the first step and getting involved. You will learn so much about your community and how to empower others. Even if running for office is not the path you choose, learning more about your community and government is essential to having your voice and ideas heard. There are so many opportunities to get involved and people in this region are willing to help you — find your passion and pursue it.

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Renee Hardman

Renee Hardman is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters and is currently serving on the West Des Moines City Council. Renee has received awards, honors and recognition from many Greater Des Moines (DSM) organizations, including induction into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame, named to the Des Moines Register's 2018 People to Watch list, earning the 2018 Women of Impact and the 2013 National Alumni awards from Drake University, Connie Wimer Spirit Award and the Business Record's Women of Influence Award.