Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to vote in municipal elections across the state.

Local officials will be elected to boards and commissions, taking on leadership roles and addressing key issues that face communities, and helping to shape the future of our towns.

Around election time, the pages of our publication are often filled with letters to the editor from residents sharing their viewpoints about community issues and candidate platforms, as have been published through last Friday’s edition of The Spectrum.

The letters page is a healthy forum for public discussion. Some writers express contradictory views against others’ policies. Some share their support for candidates.

For the most part, the dialogue among letter writers is fairly civil.

The onset of social media has given rise to other platforms that are used as a megaphone for both positive and negative purposes.

On the down side, these venues afford individuals a forum to air grievances and launch personal attacks, many of which target others and can have potential personal, emotional and/or social consequences, often without writers needing to share their identity.

Posts on these forums can stir the pot in a volatile way. We see this more than ever in our national politics.

New Milford and our surrounding communities are not immune to this. Posts about candidates — as well as individuals in the community who support certain candidates — have been shared this year.

The divisive nature by which some choose to conduct themselves is distasteful, and those who do so should be held accountable.

Unkind words, misrepresentation of facts, mistruths about individuals and experiences, personal attacks and partisan politics have no place in our community — or elsewhere.

They’re unhealthy and do not contribute to the well-being of a community.

We, as individuals, certainly have a right to offer a difference of opinion and hold varied views on policy. After all, it’d be a pretty stagnant society if we all believed the same way.

However, healthy discussion and debate is highly valued, respected and is necessary. The expression of and conversation about ideas is fundamental to growth.

The debate should be civil, courteous, respectful and fair.

Derogatory comments, personal attacks and smear campaigns are inappropriate and inexcusable.

We all have the capacity to have an open mind to really listen to all sides —everyone deserves to be heard — but not all choose to do so.

Common courtesy and respect for those who hold different views from our own, combined with a participation in compromise — the settling of differences by mutual concession — helps move a community forward.

Be kind and contribute to the heart of a community — and its successes.

See you at the polls.

Deborah Rose a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at drose@newstimes.com.