Perhaps you’re disillusioned about public servants.
Congress seems dysfunctional. The United States Attorney General has been held in contempt of court. In the past two weeks, three cities in California have filed for bankruptcy protection. Federal spending is out of control.
When you call a government office seeking assistance, your call gets transferred. Then you are put on hold. Eventually, you speak to a computer voice. Nobody seems to care.
I could go on and on.
It seems that many of us in public service need to step back and recall what “public service” is all about.
My wife shares a story about her lesson in public service. I was in law school and she had a job at the law library. A furious citizen cornered my wife’s supervisor and complained about something. To say the citizen was rude would be an understatement. The supervisor listened, apologized, and tried to find a solution that would pacify the citizen.
When the citizen left, my wife asked her supervisor why she had put up with that abuse. The supervisor explained, “Every month when I get my paycheck, it is from the State of Florida. That’s who I work for. That’s who pays me. It is my job to find out how I can provide better service to the people.”
I’m afraid some government workers don’t have that attitude.
Recently, I encountered one who does. I needed a prisoner to be moved to a different prison. I knew the cell phone number of Brian Owens, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. I had his number, because he gave it to all the District Attorneys in Georgia and told us to call if we needed him.
So, I called him. It was the day after a holiday and he was at home. On his tractor. He took my call. I could hear the diesel engine. He cut it off. He listened to me. He gave me the number of his assistant, who was at his office. He asked that I wait five minutes before I call, so that he could call first. So, five minutes later when I called his office, the assistant told me he was in the process of moving the prisoner.
That’s public service. He made himself accessible. And he delivered immediately when I needed him. I want to become more like Brian Owens.
After all, “It’s my job to find out how I can provide better service to the people.”