Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Public Service

I'm blessed to be in a job that truly feels like it matches against my skills.

There are many facets to overseeing elections, from public relations to candidate relations, from high-tech to situations that require a human touch, from logistics to statistics, and everything in between.

I have a hard time considering this job public service, though.

Anyone who has put on a military uniform--that's a public servant.  First responders in emergencies--public servants.

Election workers who give a 15-hour day for $110 in pay--yes, I think they are public servants.

But the guy running the election office?  Eh.  I don't think I've earned the same stripes.

I don't think holding a job in government automatically makes someone a public servant.  I get that we serve the public, that taxpayers are our "customers," but tying that concept into some vocation or higher calling?  I don't see the connection.

There are plenty of people--and I worked with thousands of them at Sprint--who are committed to providing excellent service in their jobs.  The fact that they work for a company instead of the government doesn't make them any less devoted to excellent service.

At one of our divisions at Sprint, we created a marketing positioning statement of "Reliability and Responsiveness From a Single Source."  I'll save you the boredom of how it fit there (although, actually it's fascinating :-)).  But those values of reliability and responsiveness were a part of all of us in that division.  They were also values I took to the election office.

I think we can be reliable and responsive without thumping our chests that we are special servants.

Point is, I think, "public service" is  a cliche, a crutch to imply a person makes less money because of a commitment to the community.  I don't share that view.  I'm a believer in service first; whether it's government or a private business is immaterial.

Looking deeper at service in elections, there are 101 counties where the elected county clerk runs elections.  Public servants or not, those are thankless jobs and it frankly amazes me that anyone would run for those positions.

It surprises me more when someone runs against an incumbent county clerk.  Clearly the challengers don't know what the job will entail.

This past Tuesday, a couple of my colleagues were defeated by someone running against them.

The general election isn't until November, so these clerks are in their positions for the rest of 2012.  And what a "rest of 2012" it will be!

Imagine working on a huge event, the biggest in the last four years, only to walk away from the job afterwards.

Imagine serving the public by putting on that event and all the while knowing that a majority of the voting public chose someone else besides you to do that job beyond this year.

Imagine the selfless devotion you'd have to have to do an excellent job.

Knowing those who were defeated, I'm certain they will throw themselves selflessly at the November election.  They will sacrifice greatly with little payback.

That's commitment.  That's public service.