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Role of the public servant: serve with excellence, a sense of humor


he mother helping her son at home said, “Give me a sentence about a public servant.” Te boy wrote: “Te fireman came down the lad-

der pregnant.”

Te mother took her son aside to correct him. “Don’t you know what pregnant means,” she asked. “Sure,” said the boy confidently. “It means carrying a child.” Te boy may have been a little confused — but what is a public

servant? Te definition of a public servant is a person holding a government office or job by election or appointment; a person in public service. And public service is defined as a service provided or facilitated by the government for the general public’s conve- nience and benefit. Public servants are employed by the government in the public sec-

tor — the part of the economy that is controlled by the government. Taxpayers and public funds pay your salaries, which is why you are known as servants of the public. Te duties of public servants are as diverse as the duties and responsibilities of the government. It is the duty of all public servants to ensure the public’s money is spent as efficiently as possible and that programs and services are provided effectively. As an elected official you have learned or are learning the specific duties of your office. And that’s what you should do, but there’s more to public service than just knowing and doing the lawful functions of your particular office. As professionals, public servants play a vital role in our soci-

ety. True public servants are committed to the highest degrees of integrity. Tey are committed to deliver the best administration possible. Tey are committed to fair governance, to delivering high quality services, to a stewardship of government funds that will maximize cost-effectiveness and for accountability. Public servants are committed to reflecting on their roles and

responsibilities. Tey are committed to testing and measuring their values, their ethics, and their actions as they serve the gov- ernment and the people.

Although no longer an elected official, I still consider myself

a professional public servant. Public service is a high calling and without the real heart to serve your election or appointment to office will be more “job” than “service.” Public service is a tough profession. You don’t always get treat-

ed right — but a good public servant will always treat others right. Tat’s one reason a good sense of humor comes in handy. Grover Cleveland, the only man to serve two different times as

U.S. President, said, “Tese are days of special perplexity and the path of public duty is unusually rugged.” He was right. Public service is rough and rugged. But a good

sense of humor helps get you and those around you through it, and much good is accomplished in the process of serving. Only one sitting president in the Gridiron Club’s lifetime declined all invitations to club dinners — Grover Cleveland. I guess he knew a requirement for appearance and participation in a program of the Gridiron Club was a sense of humor. President


Seems To Me...

Cleveland lacked a sense of humor. Considering his 1884 presidential campaign may have been the most bitter in American history up to that time makes his attitude almost un- derstandable. But an effective pub- lic servant rolls with the punches. A sense of humor would have made his service more enjoyable and, no doubt, more accepted and profitable. President Ronald Reagan provid- ed many good examples. Of course, he developed his poise and timing as an actor and speaker. He was a master at telling anecdotes to illus- trate his arguments and was fond — even expert — at delivering one-liners. He once told a Gridiron audience, since he was given much grief over a burgeoning federal deficit, “I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.” A sense of humor, especially self-deprecating humor, puts peo- ple at ease. It lets your constituents know you are human; you are just like them. A little laughter is lifesaving medicine. It’s good for all of us, especially in tough situations. Let’s take a look at the role of the public servant and the use of humor while serving the people who elected you to office. Te role of a public servant includes:

Eddie A. Jones County Consultant

1. A strong commitment to personal integrity. To maintain

and broaden public confidence, public servants are committed to perform all their responsibilities with the highest sense of integ- rity. Integrity includes: •

Conscientiousness: Te public servant is committed to exercising conscience in the defense of good government.

Confidentiality: Te public servant is committed to en- suring sensitive information is treated with discretion and responsibility in order to protect the privacy and security of the public and the efficiency of government.

• Fairness: Te public servant exercises some level of dis- cretionary authority in the daily course of activities but is committed to ensuring that discretion never results in discrimination — treating all members of the public with equality and fairness.

• Courage: Te public servant is committed to exercising courage in the fulfillment of duties: the courage to take a position, to speak objectively, and to take responsibility.

2. A strong commitment to democratic governance. Public ser-

vants accept the obligation to act to serve the public interest through time; to promote public trust in the system; and to demonstrate commitment to professionalism. Tese are accomplished through: • Non-Partisanship: Te true public servant is committed to working with the “government-of-the-day.” Once elect-


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