I’ve often heard it said that government should be run more like a business. For some it seems like a good idea but in reality, it’s not doable.
Frank and I were in public office together for many years. We had run together and served on a township committee. The town had voted on a change of government, and we had to run again.
He ran for mayor and I ran for town council.
Frank was a great and caring person. He had run his own company until he sold it and started devoting his time to public service.
Unfortunately he could not understand that he had to work within the rules of government, and that he did not have the power to do something just because it made sense and was the right thing to do.
You see, there is no room for common sense in government.
Frank and I would often butt heads. A few incidents come to mind.
It was mid-winter and a major snowstorm was on its way. My pager went off (this was before cell phones), and it was the town’s chief of police.
I got to a phone and called him. “Margaret, you have to do something. The mayor has just closed down the town and sent everyone home.”
Frank’s intentions were good. Why take a chance on having employees stranded in town hall? Let them get home to their families.
The police chief was in a panic. All his men had been called in and were going to be working the same shifts as the road department, 12 hours on and 8 hours off around the clock until the emergency was over, at time-and-a-half pay.
If the town closed down, they would go on double time. For the chief, this could have been a budget buster.
Then my pager went off again. It was the director of public works. He was in the same pickle. His men were the ones who plowed the roads.
They had a contract that was unique to them, and not only were they on time and a half, but they also got a day off during the year for each shift they worked. He could deal with that because it was built into his budget, but they would also get double time if the town were closed.
The kicker was that all employees served under the business administrator. The rules that he followed had been put in place by the town council.
As mayor, Frank did not have the power or authority to send anyone home. So despite all his common sense and good intentions, Frank did not have the authority to close down the town.
“Everyone go home” worked for him when it was his own company. I heard that one year he gave everyone a week off for Christmas and manned the phones himself with the help of two temps he hired.
There was no room for common sense in government and too few who had any, so be careful what you wish for.
Margaret Griffin has lived in Sun City Hilton Head for 16 years.