This fall, there are 9 contested races for mayor in communities across western Massachusetts. We’ve been working to get the finalists in all of those races to come in and tape debates with us for “Connecting Point”.

Working with 18 campaigns to coordinate when candidates can travel to our Springfield studios and sit down across from their opponent for a half-hour can get complicated. A few of the contenders have declined our invitation and that’s frustrating.

But the thing that’s been really great for me about this process has been the chance to be in touch with people – candidates and campaign workers – who are bringing honest energy, devotion and passion to what they are doing.

I’ve worked on a lot of debates for Governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. House of Representatives. In races like that – you’re always talking with paid campaign staffers. Media consultants, field directors and debate negotiators who are professionals brought in to run the campaign. That’s not the case when you’re working on local mayoral contests.

Races for mayor don’t raise the kind of money that let’s candidates hire fulltime staff. That means when someone like me calls or emails to set up debate, I’m dealing with a volunteer. These people aren’t involved in the campaign because it’s their job. Maybe they’re a friend or relative of the candidate. Maybe they’re concerned about a problem in their community. Maybe they just believe their candidate can help make the changes they want. It’s been a great experience for me to be in touch with these citizen volunteers. They’re there because they care. It makes me feel better about our democracy and it reminds me that this is the way politics ought to be practiced.