Public Service Stormy Season


All of us have challenging public service environments, usually with more ups than downs and, hopefully, with a tolerable level of dramatic episodes.  But every so often, we need to sort through some things.

If you follow Midwest news, you know that a state elected official recently took his life.  This happened in my home state.  The man had long and strong public service credentials, including federal service that extended to international matters.  He won two successive elections to the position of state auditor, and planned to run for Governor.

Although I did not know the man…and I’ve heard my share of bad news…I was shocked.  There’s no other word for it.

When people suddenly leave the field…departures for new opportunities, new positions, retirements, more time with family…I usually suspect health, disagreements or, more cynically, scandal.  Leaving the field is expected; leaving this life is not.

I cannot fathom why this was the best option.  There must have been no air, light or sustenance left in his world.  For those who would learn more, see this eulogy and this response.

It’s been a very tough season for public service in my state, which also put Ferguson on the map.  I was traveling overseas last summer when news of the shooting broke.  It was all over the international media and, since the Department of Justice has issued its critical report, and since other communities are experiencing similar tragedies, these issues will be front-and-center for a long time.

I am, most days, a hopeful person, but I must ask: Does public service have to be this hard?  As we prepare students to enter the field and mentor rising professionals, should we issue warning labels?

May cause personal stress, affect your health and safety, test your integrity and result in unwanted attention and unanswerable questions.

Do not attempt without a ready supply of trusted supporters, self-acceptance, humor and clear values.

Of course, the GovLoop community is like a holistic healing pharmacy for this dilemma.  It’s why we share our stories and our sustenance.

Toni Messina is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Russell Irving

Toni, please try to get ‘through’ as opposed to ‘past’ the terrible incidents that you describe. – I can only say that these things or similar ones occur in the private and non-profit sectors, as well. – Seek an ‘ear’, guidance, or professional support when things get almost too tough to handle. Attitude is important, as is the saying where one asks for the ability to accept what one cannot change. And, remember that ‘attitude’ is transformative.
So, hang in there! And, make a difference!