THE results are in, and, in most cases, the die has been cast.

And while the totals are not “official” yet, now we have a pretty good idea who will be leading our cities, schools and county in the new year.

And we also know who will be on the bench in our county’s common pleas court.

Campaigns are usually not politicians’ finest hours. And in truth, sometimes it is their supporters who take what should be a reasonable, measured and respectful contest and turn it into a chance to slam, burn and vilify on social media.

That did not happen here – not this time.

Sure, there were disagreements among the candidates and some criticism of the incumbents who were asking for voters’ support again.

And that is how it should be.

Election to a school board, a council or a county commission seat is not a lifetime guarantee, and serving the people means you should answer their concerns.

In other words, analysis and criticism of decisions, policies and votes – that comes with the territory.

There were some races that were pretty heated – and the vote Tuesday was a referendum on both the policies of the past years, and the direction voters want to see in the future.

The results sent a message that we hope the incoming officeholders and the incumbents will heed.

This is a pivotal year for Mercer County. What happens in the next 12 months will set the direction for the next decade.

We do not have time for bickering, self-interest, backdoor deals or anything else that will get in the way of moving this community forward.

And we do not have space for speed bumps – people in leadership positions who are content to draw a paycheck or to occupy a board seat and not do the work that will set this county’s economic development in the right direction.

So those who earned a vote Tuesday – or who were in a race that was uncontested, be aware, we are watching.

And we aren’t the only ones.

There are many residents of Mercer County and its associated municipalities who are tired of sitting back and talking about the plant closures and economic hard luck that got us here.

They don’t want to look at blight, and they want to see more of the improvements and investments that will make this community strong again.

They have gotten a taste of what we can do as a community and as a region – and they are not about to go backwards.

So, they are paying attention. And misspent tax dollars, ridiculous contracts, hiring of relatives and friends for county, city and school jobs and out-of-control budgets – or just bad, selfish or gutless decisions – are not acceptable. And they are calling the violators out.

That is a good sign for this community.

When people care enough to have big dreams for their county, and their goal is to create a community that their children and grandchildren can come home to, that is the first step to a second act.

And we are well on our way to just that – a bright future.

The people whose names were on that ballot Tuesday are not the key players in this scenario.

The voters, the residents who pay the taxes and raise their families here, they are the bosses.

And if we stay involved, pay attention to the decisions that are made in meetings and express our opinions about what is the best choice for our community – that is how we will be able to keep the momentum going.

Good leaders are an important part of that vision.

But an active, interested and invested electorate and community, well, that is how you turn the tide.

We will look forward to seeing how our new leadership teams perform, and how their bosses – the people – hold them accountable.

It is how this “rust belt” community will continue to be on the rise – and how we will prove all the naysayers wrong.

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