Now's the time to make a difference

Posted: Friday, August 08, 2008

The ad could read something like this: Wanted: Hard-working public servants. Must inspire others to action, while rolling up their own sleeves for the difficult, nitty-gritty work of community building. Must know it all (or at least be willing to learn it all) without sounding like a know-it-all. Must be skilled at keeping mouth shut and ears open. Must be able to translate bureaucrat-ese into "human." Must dot all the "I"s and cross all the "T"s, while never losing sight of the big picture. Ability to stay cool when in hot seat extremely helpful. Strong backs and thick skins preferred. The hours stink -- on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The pay is worse.

Public service is not a glamorous job. It's demanding in terms of time and energy. The rewards tend to be intangible and for the good of the community, not one's self. There's really only one reason people would choose such service: They want to do some good in the place they call home.

You don't need to be a political scientist -- you don't even need a college degree -- to serve your community. In fact, the primary qualification is this: caring about the community. It's that simple.

Team players make the best public servants. They see that there may be more than one way to get the job done, and they keep an open mind about the myriad of options before them. They're willing to sacrifice their right to be right for the good of the community. They recognize the importance of not just getting along with others, but also of valuing viewpoints different than their own.

The best public office-holders use their positions of powers as an opportunity to serve. You won't see them grandstanding, and they don't start every sentence with "I." They know the importance of sharing the credit when a job's well cone.

The best public servants know their No. 1 job is to make their community a better place than they found it for all citizens -- not just their friends.

Public servants aren't politicians. They are diplomats and statesmen who handle public affairs with wisdom, skill and vision.

At their very best, public servants are able to both serve and lead their communities in new directions. As good as the status quo may be, they believe things can always be better, and they work toward that end.

The filing period has opened and closes Aug. 15. Positions on the Kenai Peninsula include the borough mayor; assembly seats for Kenai, Sterling and Homer; school board seats for Nikiski, Soldotna and the Central District; and Anchor Point Fire, Bear Creek Fire, Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital, Joint Operations Board for Central Peninsula Emergency Medical and Central Emergency Service, Kachemak Emergency, Lowell Point Emergency, Nikiski Fire, Nikiski Senior, North Peninsula Recreation, Seward-Bear Creek Flood and South Kenai Peninsula Hospital service area boards.

Local elections are pivotal in shaping a community's future. Decisions made about spending and planning have the potential to change a community for better or for worse.

If you've ever toyed with the idea of getting involved, then now's the time to ask: If not me, who? If not now, when?

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