November 2013

Fri November 01, 2013 - National Edition
Craig Mongeau

Your job as highway superintendents and public works officials, through many different tasks and responsibilities, is to help maintain and/or improve the quality of life for the residents in your communities. Whether you run for office or are appointed to your job, the quality of life issue is the yardstick by which you are measured by voters or your town board, or both. In the most accurate sense of the phrase, you are the true “grass roots” of politics and civil service. You know what makes your residents happy and unhappy and you must do your job well if you are to keep your job.

Our Congress and the executive branch are different. They do just enough to please their bases and enough independents to ensure they get re-elected. The rest of the people? Well, they’ll vote for the other guy, so who cares about them, right? Imagine if you thought like that. How do you think shutting down the roads and bridges in your communities for a couple of weeks would go over, just because the town board and you couldn’t agree on an equipment purchasing strategy?

Well, that’s the equivalent of what our federal government does now and I don’t know how this can get better. It’s not realistic that all of them get voted out or replaced. To them, governing is all about political posturing and not about improving the quality of life for us. It’s almost like our Congress and the executive branch need to spend a few weeks with you to really see how you’re supposed to help people. I’m not just saying this because this magazine advocates for you. I say this because it’s true. I’ve spoken with so many of you over the years. I’ve seen and read how you do your jobs, how you do as much as you can for your residents with limited budgets and staff. Heck, you often must squeeze as much life out of your equipment as possible because the money isn’t there to get new equipment.

“Grass roots”— I don’t know what that means anymore; it’s been co-opted to mean many different things other than what it’s supposed to mean — “in the trenches.” But the latter is where our government needs to be real soon. Or else, they’ll run us all right into the ditch.

This story also appears on Superintendent's Profile.

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