January 13, 2021

In search of meaning in a time of discord

Search of meaning

My recently completed term as a Bend city councilor affirmed my long-held hope and frustrations with government.  Local governments are a microcosm of the events that play out at higher levels of government and society.  You witness government in action without having to become much of a politician.

Local service reinforced the potential of government to improve people’s lives.

Every issue looks political these days.  All issues look polarized.  In reality, much of what government does goes unnoticed because there is so much consensus that it be done.  Nearly everyone agrees that we need fire and police protection.  We all want safe and efficient ways to get around town.  The same is true at all levels of government: We want care for orphaned children and disabled adults.  At its core, government provides for a collective way to get things done that no one person or group has a reason to do.  We need government.

Local government also taught me that understanding and compromise are not only necessary, but alive and well.

On the council, each member brought a unique set of values and experiences to the table.  We had businesspeople, retirees, environmentalists, brokers, grant writers – really quite a range of people.  Finding agreement on topics like urban planning, transportation systems, river damming, etc. was challenging.  What made it possible was we all shared a deep love for our community and a desire to help residents.  When you all love the same thing, disagreements and compromise on the tactics get easier.  Do you always get what you value?  No, but you can advance the needs of your community, nonetheless.  People working with people find common cause in our hearts.

Before serving in local government, I managed a unit of the Oregon Attorney General’s Office.

I was a staff person for a US Senate subcommittee.  I’ve also worked as an attorney.  My council experience along with my work at other levels of government give me hope and satisfaction in my day job as a leader at GL Solutions.  GL Solutions helps agencies ensure safety in regulatory areas such as firearms, explosives, and foster care facilities.  After decades working with governments at all levels, I can testify that government does serve our collective needs.

I start with hope, in part because you need a lot of hope to deal with all the frustrations of working in and with governments.

Because governments are accountable to many conflicting voices, they are risk-averse and slow.  Our societal challenges reflect a world accustomed to innovation and speed.  One should not be surprised that the iPhone did not originate in a government agency.   How will government keep up?  Can government at least adapt to tools already widely in use in the public sector?  Can government procurement processes work fast enough to buy needed services and products before they become obsolete?  Answering these challenges is the reason I come to work every day at GL Solutions.  Its why GL Solutions is “passionate about government.”


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