An open letter to our new public servants

Welcome to the job, newly elected public servants. Your campaigns ended on a high note. You deserve hearty congratulations for surviving the long slog toward election day and emerging victorious.

You, along with all candidates, deserve praise for volunteering to serve the public. Political campaigns are rough. Things can get even rougher once you get the job and you become the person on the hot seat. We thank you for your willingness to represent us.

Now it’s time to embark on your new task— you’ve committed a chunk of your professional life to serving everyone who lives in your voting district, be it a village, city, township, county, school district, court system or legislative district.You now join your fellow elected officials in the task of running local, state or national government institutions.

We’d like to share a few basic principles that your most successful predecessors have found useful.
• Serve all your constituents, no matter who they voted for. Your job is to represent everyone in your voting district, even folks who may have campaigned against you.

By winning your election, you have accepted the task of representing every citizen who pays your salary.

• Perform your job with transparency. You are now a public servant — the taxpayers are your boss.
Employers need to know that you’re doing your job. The best public servants operate with transparency — they regularly tell their constituents what they’re thinking, what goals they’re aiming toward, and how they’re trying to attain those goals. Share your thoughts and intentions with the people who pay your salary. That’s the only way voters can know that an elected official actually is serving the public interest.
• Initiate frequent contact with your constituents. Tell them what you’re doing for them. And listen to what they say. Communication is a two-way street.
Your constituents want to talk with you, want to share their concerns and beliefs. Return calls. Host office hours. Hold town meetings. If you work in Lansing or Washington D.C., carve out time to come back home to get direction from your boss — your constituents.

You shared your views during campaign season and the voters responded by electing you. You also listened to their concerns.

Those conversations translated into your initial marching orders.

But it’s important to maintain that direct contact with your constituents. Be available and responsive throughout your time in office, to the public in general and to journalists who represent the public.

• Elected officials by definition are politicians. We know you’ll devote some effort during your term to campaigning for your next election. But please make representing your constituents your top priority. Building your campaign fund must come second. Solid work performance is the best way to keep any job.
Representing your constituents is your job now, so put forth your best effort and serve the public to the best of your ability.

Keep communicating with the people you represent. Be up front with your constituents. Show them what you’re doing. Stay focused on serving the public.

— TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE