One bit of advice always resonates: Do your homework.

That’s advice we’d pass along to incoming State Representative J.D. Prescott and incoming Jay County Commissioner Chad Aker.

Both won election handily, and both are bright guys.

But both will have a learning curve ahead of them. Elected office looks easy from the outside, but inside is a different story.

So the homework is essential:

•Ask questions.

•Listen, not just to folks you know but to as many folks as possible.

•Never assume anything.

•Don’t hesitate to challenge the status quo. “We’ve always done it this way” is fine as far as it goes, but it needs to be tested now and then.

•Check your ego at the door. This isn’t about you. It’s about public service.

•Do the math. Often the answers you need are buried in numbers. The quickest way to gain the respect of your peers is to master those numbers.

•Ask for advice. Listen to all of it respectfully, but sort out the good from the bad, the wise from the foolish when you have a few minutes alone.

•Find a mentor and take your time finding him or her. This goes back to listening. You’ll learn after awhile who is worth listening to.

•Cross party lines. Hard to do with three GOP commissioners, but it still is good advice for a young state representative. A wise legislator once said the biggest divisions in the Indiana General Assembly are not between political parties but between rural and urban issues. There’s some wisdom in that.

•Take your time. If you feel pressed for a decision or an answer, it probably means you need more time to chew it over. Don’t rush into a mistake. Take your time.

•Remember that you are no longer on the campaign trail. Campaigning involves telling folks what they want to hear. Governing often requires telling them what they do not want to hear.

•Don’t be afraid to say, “No.”

•Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Constituents will respect both of those answers.

•Return phone calls, especially from constituents and from the press, whose job it is to be the voice for those constituents.

•Avoid promises, unless it’s a promise to listen and to think and to do your job to the best of your ability.

•Don’t take yourself too seriously. You may be a big deal to your spouse or your kids or your mother, but the fact is you are not a big deal. 

•Have fun.

That last one may seem impossible, but it’s important.

Public service can be incredibly rewarding. Your colleagues — even the debates and arguments with them — can be fun.

So go at it. We’ll be watching. — J.R.