To Be or Not To Be? The Question of the Public Servant

I often get asked, WHAT is a Public Servant? Is being a Public Servant noble or is it a place where the working retired find a home? Do people of lesser skills gravitate to public service just to be average? All interesting questions but they all miss the mark. To answer the question, what is a Public Servant we must first ask ourselves WHY people do this kind of work?

Asking why people do something creates a more difficult response. When I started my public career almost 28 years ago, I didn’t understand why. I only understood what they needed me to do. Let us explore why people become Public Servants. At the root of public service is the foundational need to help people. Helping people is very noble and government workers get to make a difference in people’s lives every day. The workers are very skilled to the point where their abilities rival those of the private sector. Being average is not in the DNA.

Government, in itself, provides services to people that other entities will not provide. The Michigan Constitution illustrates the foundation of public service. The words HEALTH, SAFETY and WELFARE of the people lay that framework on which everything we do in government makes sense. Our leaders determined that serving people was the main focus of government.

As Public Servants we work diligently to enhance the health of our citizens through Public Health initiatives like vaccinations or nursing care. We work toward the safety of the people by policing the streets and being there for them during emergency situations. Looking out for the welfare of people takes on many different forms by creating livable communities and a strong economic climate for businesses to flourish. Why do we do these things? Because we care about people and we want to help them.

Now to answer the question, WHAT is a Public Servant? A Public Servant is a person who wants to make a difference in the world by providing the best services possible that matter to the people we serve. A pretty simple answer and I understand WHY I am one!

Author:  Phil Bertolini – Deputy County Executive & Chief Information Office for Oakland County, Michigan