Public Service is not easy
By Bobby Tingle
Serving the public is not an easy job. Satisfying one hundred percent of those served one hundred percent of the time is impossible. Satisfying the majority is commendable but when you do so, the minority are potentially dissatisfied.
Public servants who volunteer their time and talents are no less accountable to those served than if paid. Whether elected, appointed or the only one willing to take responsibility for a task or initiative, public servants must be held to a high level of accountability.
Serving others is exactly what it sounds like, service. Rolling up your sleeves and digging in is the only way to accomplish the task at hand. Those served have expectations. Honesty and objectivity along with the wisdom to make the best decision regardless of personal preference are necessary. Try convincing those you serve you accomplished that. It’s not an easy sales job.
Many years ago, I helped a man coach a baseball team of about a dozen nine and ten-year-old boys. He was the head coach and I was his assistant. After the first game my wife asked me why his wife sat by herself next to the right field foul pole. Even coaches wives can often take some heat. We found that out first hand when I was the coach and she would sometimes help in the dugout. Player’s parents can be very opinionated.
Serving a church can also be a challenge. Volunteers recruiting volunteers to do volunteer work can challenge the best recruiter. Did I mention it is volunteer work? Parishioners want quality from those teaching or working in the nursery. And they should.
Public service also means managing money, that resource that makes the world go round. It is the resource every organization must have to accomplish its goals. Raising money and paying bills while maintaining accountability are necessary in public service. Reaching that goal requires much effort.
Transparency seems to be the big buzzword these days in public service. If you watch national politics you have heard that word thrown around. Generally those running say they will and often those served say they don’t. Who is right?
Recently and locally, two entities have been in the spotlight related to perceptions regarding their actions and whether or not they act transparently.
Transparency is simply conducting public business in the open for the public to view. Transparency requires communication, clear and concise. It requires inclusion of all voting members. Members of a public governing body require time to hear and consider issues prior to decision-making. Transparency requires proceeding in a manner and at a rate that allow constituents to keep up. Those served need an opportunity to perceive and comprehend the actions and outcomes of decision-makers serving them.
Locally, this newspaper has reported and opined related to decisions made by a municipality and a school board. Questions about the required level of transparency have been asked. Providing an objective and accurate answer to those questions is difficult. Engaging in the work of providing objective answers is necessary.
Public service is not easy.
One final thought about public service and those they serve. Public service is not easy. Those served should appreciate those who serve. When you hold your public servants accountable, bear in mind your responsibility. As you hold your public servant up to your standard, do so in a thoughtful, informed and transparent manner. Do the hard work of gathering the information to make an informed choice before acting or speaking.
And don’t hesitate to show your gratitude to those who serve. They will appreciate it.
Bobby Tingle is publisher of The Orange Leader. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org