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ed or appointed, a true public servant is not a Democrat or Republican but a servant of the people to accomplish what is in the best interest of the people.

• Providing Accountability: Te public servant is commit- ted to promote dialogue and engagement of the public and to report accurately, clearly and fully on the activities and duties of their office.

• Public Interest: Te public servant is committed to un- derstanding the public interest as it is expressed through time and then fulfills the public interest by service.

3. A strong commitment to respectfulness. In carrying out your

responsibilities as professionals, public servants must exercise sensi- tive professional and moral judgments in everything you do. Te commitment to respectfulness is applicable to respectfulness with: • Te elected: A good public servant is committed to serv- ing the elected government and his/her elected cohorts with dignity and respect regardless of political party preference.

• Te public: Te public servant is committed to com- municating with the public in a respectful manner that acknowledges they are the reason you became a public servant. Te real public servant will make the experience of dealing with government as congenial, satisfying and constructive as possible.

Colleagues: Public servants are committed to making the workplace a productive and healthy environment. Tose who work for and with you and for other elected officials should be treated with respect, tolerance and courtesy.

4. A strong commitment to continual learning and innova-

tion. Te top-notch public servant is committed to monitoring the ever-changing work environment and to strive to continually improve competence and the quality of service. A public servant must continue to learn in order to: •

Improve performance: Te public servant is committed to the learning and innovation necessary to enhance the delivery of policy and service.

• Personal improvement: Te best public servants are com- mitted to a life-long pursuit of formal and informal edu- cation endeavors to elevate the overall quality of public service. Elected county officials in Arkansas have the op- portunity to learn through their particular affiliate associa- tion; through continuing education programs established by law; and through seminars hosted by the Association of Arkansas Counties.

In addition to these things, the public servant must be com- mitted to observing the highest ethical stands, to maintaining objectivity and to be free of conflicts of interest in discharging their professional responsibilities. Te life of the public servant is not easy. Te road is not always smooth. You are not always treated fairly. Tings said about you are not always true. It can be very stressful. Tat’s why it’s best lived and performed with a sense of humor. Some of our presidents have had a good sense of humor. Presi- dent Lyndon Johnson said, “If one morning I walked on top of


the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read, ‘President Can’t Swim.’” President Abraham Lincoln said, “If I were two-faced, would

I be wearing this one?” When someone asked President John F. Kennedy how he became a war hero, he said, “It was absolutely involuntary. Tey sank my boat.” Whether you are the county judge, sheriff, county clerk, circuit

clerk, county treasurer, county collector, assessor, coroner, justice of the peace, state legislator, or any other public servant, you have a specific function in government, and that function is impor- tant. Te job should be performed with excellence in accordance with law and using the guidelines provided in this article. But humor is also important in performing public service.

Government at all levels seems to be inherently complex — not that it always needs to be. John and Jane Q. Public have problems and responsibilities of their own. Tey don’t have time to fully study and understand all of the intricacies of county government. As a learned public servant, it is your job to adequately summa- rize and get to the heart of a complicated but important question your constituent has. Humor can come in handy in this context. People can identify with a leader who has a sense of humor. We all want to be liked. Democrats and Republicans alike en-

vied President Kennedy’s great ability to keep potentially tense or confrontational situations light. Te benefit of humor as prac- ticed by President Kennedy was obvious. Reporters love com- ments that provide good copy. Just one well-turned phase can give a reporter something to write about. A good public servant should not always be looking for a newspaper, radio or TV au- dience. Much of your humor will be in one-on-one situations. Whether you use your humor as a public servant publicly or pri- vately, use it as a tool to ingratiate your constituency. Everyone’s brand of humor is based on his or her personal-

ity. President Harry Truman, with his quick and crusty manner, seemed to enjoy the give and take of pointed humor. By con- trast, President Dwight Eisenhower maintained a more reserved, conservative posture when it came to engaging in any repartee. More than likely his military background was responsible for his reserved public personality. I tend to fall more in line with President Calvin Coolidge, who was known for few words and a dry wit. One Sunday, Mrs. Coolidge was sick and stayed home from

church. President Coolidge went to church by himself. When he re- turned home, his wife asked, “What did the minister preach about?” Te President replied, “Sin.” She asked, “What did he say about it?” Te President said, “He was against it.” When I was in public office, my opponent and I were having a debate that was becoming heated. At one point he jumped up and asked, “What about the powerful interest that controls you?” I politely stood up to the podium and retorted, “You leave my wife out of this!” Attendees, including my opponent, roared with laughter. Te tenor of the situation changed. People were put at ease with a little humor and laughter. Public service is a high calling. Serve honorably — but serve with a sense of humor. Humor makes the good times better. It makes the tough times easier.


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