The way several candidates jumped in and then out of races for Fort Worth City Council and school board might suggest a lack of commitment -- or just frigid toes from testing the waters.Voters shouldn't be misled: The May local elections are serious business.Representatives at the city and county levels are closest to people who elected them. They're the officials whom residents and neighborhood coalitions have the best chance of influencing. Typically low turnout means local races are where every individual vote can matter most.Contested elections involving cities and school districts will be on the May 11 ballots in Fort Worth and Arlington. Hurst, Euless and the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district have races. The powerful but obscure board of the Tarrant Regional Water District has seven candidates, including three incumbents, running for three seats.Voters in the Birdville and Weatherford school districts will be asked to approve multimillion-dollar bond packages for classroom, technology and security improvements. Birdville's $183.2 million package is already seeing vigorous debate because it would close two elementary schools and send those students to other campuses. Board President Ralph Kunkel also faces a challenger, Jeffrey Ritter.Weatherford's $107.3 million bond proposal includes a ninth-grade wing for the district's high school.Four Fort Worth council members drew opponents who've stayed in the running. (One candidate withdrew to learn his new neighborhood better; another appeared to have announced his withdrawal but later said it was just mischief by a now-ex friend.)Expect drama as two former council members seek to regain their seats: Jim Lane is challenging council member Sal Espino in District 2 on the city's north side, and Kathleen Hicks is running against council rookie Kelly Allen Gray in District 8 in southeast.Espino lost a 2003 attempt to unseat then-councilmember Lane but won the seat in 2005 after Lane stepped down. Lane, a lawyer who sits on the water board, came in second to Betsy Price in a 2011 runoff for mayor. Gray won the District 8 seat last year after Hicks resigned to run, unsuccessfully, for Congress.Porsche dealer Paul Gardner is running against District 4 council member Danny Scarth; and member Frank Moss is being challenged by nonprofit executive Gyna Bivens, who's a former T board chair, and real estate broker John Tunmire.The predominantly Hispanic north side also can expect a tussle for school board as podiatrist Camille Rodriguez challenges trustee Carlos Vasquez, who unseated her in 2008. Juvenile probation officer Jacinto Ramos also is running.Juan Rangel, who was first elected to the board in 2000, faces event planner Ashley E. Paz and homemaker Melody Palacios in District 9, which runs from the city's northeast side to the near-south.The new District 8 seat on the south side briefly had a three-way race, but J.R. Martinez, who was appointed last year, dropped out, as did another candidate. That left businessman Matthew Avila to take the seat without a fight.In Arlington, incumbents Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff, Michael Glaspie and Mayor Robert Cluck have opponents. But those races have less intrigue than Fort Worth's. One of Cluck's challengers is retired economist Jerry Pikulinski, who's failed in three previous tries at mayor. And Glaspie, a former school trustee who won a special election in 2012, is opposed by Richard Weber and Joe McHaney, who've run unsuccessfully for other offices in the county.Arlington school board members John Hibbs and Jamie Sullins drew challengers. But the five candidates for two H-E-B board seats are all newcomers.H-E-B superintendent Gene Buinger has announced his retirement, and the current board picked longtime administrator Steve Chapman to replace him. The stakes in these elections are significant. Voters should start educating themselves.