"If you find yourself saying, 'Somebody ought to do something about that...,' well, you're somebody."

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Ocean County Democratic Party activist Marta Harrison centers her political life on that concept. If you've ever aspired to better your community through an elected office, the former Lakewood Mayor teaches you how to begin the journey, this Saturday, February 13, at the Ocean County Library's Toms River Branch.

The free workshop begins at 10 AM. Walk-ins are welcome but registration is encouraged through the Ocean County Democratic web page and Facebook page.

"It isn't a strictly Democatic Party function," she explained. "Republicans can attend as well. What we're interested in is expanding the pool of people who are thinking about running for office, and making sure that they know that it's something anybody can do."

Future workshops focus on financing, fundraising, platforms and campaigning.

Participants at this one will get a glimpse of petitions, learn how to obtain voter lists, and understand the rules for obtaining signatures to secure a ballot position.

Marta promises a basic, clear overview of how to begin. "We'll explain in detail, how to fill out a petition, where to get a petition, who has to sign a petition, with an emphasis of, really, how easy it is, especially in small towns. You don't need as many signatures as you might think. In some towns, it's as few as five. Our largest towns, 35 to 40."

She added that planning and action well in advance of elections is critical.

"You have to start thinking about it in April," Marta said, adding that her workshop will also cover "the things you have to do in March and April, if you want to get on the [November] ballot."

In Marta's view, it's the first step to meaningful change, and a conscious migration from the user end to the producer end of the equation. "If you don't like the way your town is being run, or if you think that better people should run for office, then you should run for office," she said.

"You might lose - in every election, when two people are running, 50 percent of them will lose," she noted wryly. "But it's a great experience for the person involved, and it's also good for the town."

Ocean County Library Toms River Branch (theoceancountylibrary.org)

She said that she's seen numerous instances in which an idea was set forth by a candidate who lost, only to see the winner bring it to fruition. That means an impact, without even having won election.

"I try to help them see that it's actually not something to be upset about," she said. "You had a a good idea, you introduced it publicly, and regardless of who implemented it, it did get done. A lot of times, by running, you ensure that the interests of the people of your town get aired."

Seeking local elective office, she added, ultimately entails a commitment that stretches across two years. "The first time you run, you meet a lot of people, you learn what works and what doesn't work. Then you do it again, maybe the next year, maybe in a few years, but either way, you take something from your first exposure on toward a victorious run."