I’ve been working in local government for about three months now, and I’ve learned a lot in that short time. Aside from the fact that I’ve realized I am actually capable of holding a job, parenting my kids and still being infatuated with my husband, there are some other important discoveries I’ve made.
Not everything is black and white
I guess the old adage “the older you get, the wiser you become” is appropriate here, and makes a lot of sense. When I was younger, things seemed much more black and white. I pretty much thought I knew everything and had the world’s problems figured out. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there is a lot, and I mean a lot of grey area in life. Working for a politician, I’ve seen that to be even more true. I’ve realized that making changes in government is not simple; there’s a process to everything, and it’s often long and arduous. Which is why every politician says on the campaign trail how he or she is going to change the world, but ends up being lucky to get a speed bump put into a neighborhood.
It’s not that I think people should throw their morals out the door, or muddle down their convictions. It’s just that I think I’ve realized in order to get anything done in government, one needs to be willing to see and hear the other side…and sometimes make compromises. While something may seem black and white to me, if I really sit down and listen to someone on the “other side,” there is often a lot of room for interpretation. Most importantly, we could both be right. Which makes for a bit of a conundrum.
The man I work for is masterful at his job. It’s part of the reason he’s been in office almost 24 years–because he is actually reasonable. And while he may not change his mind at the end of the day, he will always listen to those who disagree, and mull over their thoughts and opinions for awhile before he makes a decision. He understands that not everything is black and white, and that is vital to his success.
Term limits may not be as beneficial as I thought
I used to be of the mindset that term limits are important. After all, we don’t want some crazy whacko in office for decades without the ability to boot him out, right?
Now that I’ve seen how painfully slow and cumbersome the political process can be, I see why someone who has the history and experience in a particular office can get a lot more done than someone who is brand new. It can take years to fully understand the issues and policies of a local municipality, and if there is heavy turnover every couple years, there is no time for someone to actually dig in and get big things accomplished.
The power of our vote should be enough. I realize, however, that it often isn’t. Term limits can have positive repercussions such as promoting fresh new ideas, reducing opportunities for corruption, and breaking down political machines. There is great value in giving people time to do their job, and allowing them the benefit of years of relationships with their colleagues to figure things out.
I will add that it’s really only beneficial to have someone in office for a long time if they have morals. Term limits are not really needed if the politician is a moral human. Because of this, it’s important to not just vote for the issues, but to vote for the moral person who supports your issues. Does that make sense?
There are some really good people in government
Politicians get a bad rap, and for good reason. There are a lot of dirty, slimy, self-motivated, self-absorbed people representing us. However, I have seen some of the most kind, generous, caring people in our local government. I’ve seen liberals who care deeply about our communities and devote countless hours and resources into making sure they are available for their constituents. I’ve seen conservatives who sacrifice over and over again in order to ensure they are doing the best job possible.
Most of all, I’ve realized that every elected official I’ve met is just a regular person. Each of them is doing his or her job to the best of their ability, doing what they can to represent their constituents, and fighting for what they believe is true and right.
Yes, there are always bad apples and people who take advantage of the system and only care about their own power and influence. But almost every person I’ve met in our County government is honorable, humble, and has great integrity. It has been very refreshing, and has often restored my hope in the system!
There’s a lot I can do to help
I used to feel like the world was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. One thing I’ve learned over these last few months is that there’s a lot I can do to help.
When a constituent calls with a concern, I can give them a personal phone call and assist them in resolving their issue. When there is a need in our community, I can step in and make a difference. When my neighbor is sick, I can bring her a meal. When a family is hurting, I can rally people together to come around them in support. When I see something not working, I can find the answer and help fix it.
There may be a lot of things out of my control, but there are a lot of things within my control. Mostly, I control my own actions and am responsible for how I choose to spend my time. And if I’m doing everything I can to make my community a better place to live, work, and raise a family, then I’m making a difference.
I love my job so much, and am excited each and every day to go into work to see what challenge is placed before me to help solve. I encourage you to get involved in your local government, whether it’s volunteering for a committee or commission, serving for a non-profit, or just picking up a piece of trash when you see it on the ground. It’s incredibly fulfilling, and will impact those around you and spread like wildfire!