Ideally, government does that which can be accomplished better or more efficiently collectively than individually. A few of the public service professionals who keep life civilized are garbage collectors, teachers, firefighters, police officers, sewage treatment professionals, drinking water operators, highways workers, school cafeteria workers, janitors, maintenance workers, and on and on. Can you imagine life if no one were here to pick up the trash? Sure, you’d save a few dollars, but at what cost to your environment and health?
And heaven forbid your house catches fire, if no one’s around to put out the flames? What if your neighbor’s house also caught fire as well, and the whole block burned down? How about if no one treated sewage? I’ll let you imagine that one on your own.
Now about those government regulations and the people you pay to enforce them – who are perhaps the most unpopular public-sector professionals. It’s true the cost of sewage treatment is driven higher by state and federal regulations, duly enforced by regulators. Naturally, it would be much less expensive for towns, cities, and manufacturing facilities to let sewage flow into a river or a lake. And seriously, if now one were watching businesses, what do you think the possibility is that some of them might try to save money by using this less expensive method of treatment? So what if you live in the next town down river and your drinking water comes from that river? Yes, it’s a gross, but it’s also just the kind of situation regulations prevent. Regulation is not about making it more difficult to do business as some would have you believe.
As we move further into recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, I call on you to stop for a moment to imagine a world in which there are no public servants; no one to pick up trash, to fight fires, to teach children history and calculus. I would argue that without me and my fellow public servants, our quality of life would tumble drastically.
Public service is my calling and in one capacity or another, I will spend my life working towards a higher quality of life for all people. I also hope that public policymakers will stop blanket vilification of those of us who’ve chosen careers in public service, and instead to value our dedication to building an even stronger social fabric.
--- Reid Wodicka lives in Harrisonburg and is the Town Manager of Elkton. He will receive a Master of Public Administration degree from James Madison University in May.