Getting to know our local government leaders has been and continues to be a great exercise for me as an interviewer, a writer, and a voter. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the whole process, and I’m learning so much. I hope that you all as readers are too. Each person comes to their position with a different background, different life experiences, and different personalities, so it is not surprising when there are occasional fireworks. What I am coming to appreciate is that for the most part people who choose to serve on a council or board are doing so because they really have their communities best interests in mind.
When we think of politicians we often think of the unsavory characters in Washington D.C. who are out for their own best interest whether it be ego or money or both. I know that I have a very jaded view of our federal and even to some extent our state government and with good reason I would argue. But these local councilmen, aldermen, mayors and yes even the city staffs are passionate about their communities. They live here too. They have to abide by the decisions they make. Certainly some have abused their positions of power and there will be those in the future that do as well, but by and large our representatives at the local level have very little compensation for the hours of work they put in reading proposed bills and resolutions, reports from special commissions, and doing the leg work to evaluate issues and that’s on top of giving up one night every week to work on and vote on the issues. That is a lot of time from their families and their hobbies. If someone is doing this job right, they are committing many hours to serve their community with little pay.
It is not an easy job either. When someone does contact them it is usually with a complaint or problem, rarely with a ‘good job’ and pat on the back. Its like working customer service at an airline phone bank. You only get to talk to people who have something going wrong for them. That wears on a person. I’m sure the members of our local governments would very much enjoy talking with a constituent about what is going right once in a while. Maybe if it wasn’t too much trouble, we could all reach out to someone from our local government that we do think is doing a fine job and just let them know that they are appreciated. After almost of year of covering council meetings I can tell you that talking about wastewater treatments, city code ordinances, and right-of-ways is not all that exciting, but this is what they do. And they do it for me and for you and for our children who will inherit this community. I for one am glad that others step up to do this job so I don’t have too.