Monday, January 14, 2013

In Defense of Government Workers

I've worked for government organizations or agencies for.... hmmmm.... over 10 years.  Wow.  I never knew government employment had a bad rep, until I worked for a state agency.  After all, my dad was a career Air Force officer.  He was a government employee, right?  My mom was a teacher - a government employee, right?  I had never heard anybody talk disparagingly about their jobs or their employers.  Why was it that, now that I was a state employee, I was suddenly part of a culture that believed the general public thought poorly of them.
     Government workers are known by a myriad of names.  State officials.  Public employees.  State workers.  Civil servants.  All of these names seem to have gotten a bad rap, the face of bureaucracy, of government waste, of laziness and ineffectiveness.  I have to say, for the most part, my impression of government employees has been quite the opposite.
     I like to think of government workers of what they actually are:  teachers, health professionals, bridge builders, city developers, engineers, computer programmers, police and fire safety personnel, nurses, doctors, data analysts, child protective workers, educators, social workers, judges, lawyers, grant managers, and - yes - policy makers.  The government workers I know are smart, hard-working, dedicated people who do the job they've been given with heart.  They do it because they are part of a system that, at the end of the road, is meant to make peoples' lives better.  What's more, they are incredibly - sometimes painfully, acutely - aware of the fact that they are spending taxpayer money and go to great lengths to ensure financial accountability and fiscal responsibility.  I've never seen anybody purchase a $400 hammer.  I HAVE seen government employees who make less money than they should, refuse to submit reimbursement for their travel expenses because they didn't see it as a big deal.
     I'm not saying the system is perfect.  In fact, it is far from perfect - like any system is, simply because people are involved and people are imperfect.  Layers of bureaucracy can create gridlock.  I've seen this happen but despite the frustration of that, at the heart of it is people wanting to do the right thing.... unless they are intentionally trying to cause gridlock.  That's another issue....  of the tea party variety.
      What I'm trying to say is next time you go to the library, or interact with a state-funded university, or go to a health department, or read about a police officer injured on the job, or drive on a road or bridge or highway, or use 211 or 411 or 911, or enjoy some relief after a disaster, or thank our men and women in uniform, there was a government worker doing his or her job.  With heart and for the greater good.... not to create unnecessary bureaucracy, but in spite of it.

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