Civil Servant

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Today is my tenth anniversary with my State agency, the longest I’ve worked at one address in my career, and I’ve been a government worker at the federal and state level since I was twenty, aside from a couple of years in private industry. Like any job, there’s been an equal share of highs and lows, and I’ve been lucky to work with the very best at what they do. Here’s some perceptions from this civil servant that may get missed by the general public.

Everyone hates the government… I’m not judging because that’s human nature. Most of us hate being told what to do or being shoved in a cattle chute to pay our car registration fees. We don’t want The Man to tell us what not to do, and we certainly don’t want to pay taxes to have them misused. We Nevadans have this extra special feeling for Uncle Sam, being pinched between the Sagebrush Rebellion and the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository.

Until we need the government. Ah, yes. The Paradox of Governance. We want the government when it’s time to defend our family (the police and military), pave the roads (DMV and the highway department), protect and educate our children (CPS and schools), provide elder medical care (Medicare), and so on and so forth. This stuff ain’t cheap, so…

Taxes. Probably the biggest gripe is how the government misspends tax money, and it’s not an unfair perception. We all have our favorite stories (like the million-dollar toilet seat), but here’s the thing: the government doesn’t go out of its way to screw up like that. We know we’re protectors of someone else’s money. The reality is when we’re spending tax money, we’re doing what we’re told to do by the laws governing the program. If you don’t like what we’re doing, call your congressman or legislator.

We’re at our best when the shit hits the fan. I’ve seen dozens of crises of various levels, and we get through these emergencies because we are expert problem solvers with the minimum available resources. It’s not by accident. We’re always working to improve methodologies, procedures and laws so we’re ready the next time the flag goes up.

The single government office that can make or break an agency. Nope, it’s not the political leadership or the money people or those who set policy. It’s Human Resources. I’ve been fortunate to work for a government unit whose HR office was a positive force, using rules and regulations as tools to recruit and retain the best in the business. That’s an empowering feeling, knowing your HR works for you. When your HR department loses touch with common sense, and they prioritize regulations over everything else, offices cannot hire and keep good people. That’s a morale killer.

The old saying goes, “If I knew then what I know now…”. Would I do this government thing again? Depends on time of day you ask me, I suppose. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the people that I’d not know otherwise, and have been enriched and blessed. For now, I know your government is actually working, and it’s working for you. We may not have the flash or the national spotlight like some industries, and I’m fine with that. I know we’ve done our job right when you don’t read about us in the newspaper.

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