The business of running for political office

Carlotta Ungaro
Carlotta Ungaro

By Carlotta Ungaro

In the book, “We Don’t Make Widgets,” Ken Miller makes the case that government and business actually operate similarly and that successful business practices can improve government. With this thought, the Fayette Chamber is proud to offer for the second year, Candidate Academy.

In elections, the “product” is the candidate, including his or her platform, and the skills to further that platform. But what does the candidate need to do make sure his or her “product” wins?

First, it takes organization. Just like businesses, candidates and elected officials have reporting deadlines and compliance requirements. We start Candidate Academy with presentations from Fayette County Elections and the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. For example, missing an ethics filing due to error not only brings expensive fines but could cost a candidate an election.

Deciding to run for office is like applying for a job. It is better to have a clear understanding of the job before you apply. Serving on a city council is more than just showing up twice a month at a meeting, so Candidate Academy will highlight what the job entails.

Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial and Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson will share details such as how much time is spent on civic duties, what kinds of issues emerge on the municipal level and how municipalities interact with county, state and federal governments. They will also discuss which skills they believe best serve them in their civic role.

Every business has to market its products and services to attract customers. Every candidate needs to market themselves to attract voters. To provide insight on successful campaign (i.e., marketing) tactics, we have former state representatives Ronnie Mabra and Matt Ramsey sharing what worked in their campaigns.

Smart businesses tap into their industry associations for ideas and support. Political parties are like industry associations. They are a treasure trove of support to help candidates understand their target market, assist in product development and messaging and other important support systems. We look forward to having Fayette County’s local party affiliates on hand as a resource.

So if you are feeling the call of public service, we hope you will join us for Candidate Academy on August 11. More information can be found at While the program is free, we do ask that you register at

[Carlotta Ungaro is president and CEO of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, located in Fayetteville. The Chamber represents almost 800 member businesses and organizations and strives “to promote business and enhance economic and community development through leadership, service and advocacy for Fayette County.”]