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May 05

In the Public’s Interest

Posted on May 5, 2020 at 1:30 PM by Melinda Mayo

This week is recognized as Public Service Recognition Week, as promoted for the past 36 years by the Public Employees Roundtable.  The recognition, perhaps more fitting than ever before, honors the men and women who work as federal, state, and local government employees.  These are the folks who answer the 911 calls, who collect our garbage, keep the community informed, provide safe places for our children to learn and play, keep our air and water safe, and help build and maintain streets, bridges, water mains, and public buildings and monuments.  In these current times, these are the employees who have kept our local, state, and federal governments delivering essential services 24/7, even as COVID-19 rages across our Nation.

The Public’s Work

I shy away from the moniker “public servant,” because I view it as a politically loaded description and an inaccurate one at that.  Rather, I prefer to point out that employees at all levels of government work in the public’s interest.  That is, they do what they do in order to make our lives, our communities, and our Nation stronger and better.  They do not work to generate dividends for stockholders, to generate profit for CEO’s, or to create value in hope of a buy-out at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Instead, they work to ensure we are safe and have opportunities to succeed to our fullest potential.

In this past Sunday’s edition of The Roanoke Times, photos and job descriptions of a number of what have been labeled “essential workers” were featured on the front page of the newspaper.  Among them were firefighters, police officers, utility workers, and maintenance and solid waste employees, each from some of our area governments.  It was a nice feature and a pleasant reminder of how much we (often unknowingly) rely upon these folks.  

Attracting and Keeping the Best

The success of our communities and Nation depend, in no small part, upon our ability to ensure we attract the best teachers, engineers, mechanics, advisors, attorneys, scientists, equipment operators, and many others into this line of work—into serving the public’s interest.  This is no easy task. Seldom are these the best paying jobs, and rarely are they accompanied by accolades for a job well done.  If there is one thing we have learned in the past couple of months though, it is how much we rely upon them.

So, join me in thanking those working in local, state, and federal governments.  Maybe the next time you’re stuck behind that trash truck or in a long line of cars at a street construction project, or even when that tax bill arrives in the mail, you can take a few moments and remember that these folks are working to make things better for you. And the money you pay in taxes ensures they are paid and have the resources they need to get the job done well.  Heck, maybe even offer them a word of thanks—yours might be the only nice words they hear all day.

— Bob Cowell


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