LENA MITCHELL: Voting shows appreciation for public service offered by those who stand

The Corinth mayor and Board of Aldermen had an experience recently that few public officials enjoy during a term of office.
A city resident attended a board meeting to offer thanks, and with checkbook in hand to pay for cleanup of a dilapidated house that the city tore down on his family’s property. In fact, the man said the $1,400 the city charged him was less than the amount he had arranged to pay a contractor for destruction of the house and removal of debris. In appreciation for his cooperative attitude, the board voted to forego any fine for having to go through the months-long process that resulted in a cleaned-up lot.
On June 2 most Northeast Mississippi municipalities will conclude the process of electing or re-electing city government officials to serve the next four years.
Some current officeholders have already been eliminated from their positions in the next term as a result of party primary and runoff elections earlier this month.
Unfortunately, many of those officials, many who continue to serve, and many entering public service for the first time, will never know the satisfaction those Corinth aldermen probably experienced on receiving an expression of gratitude for the work they do on behalf of their community.
Attending public meetings is a part of my duties as a journalist, one that I do not take lightly. Through actions at those meetings, as well as discussions that may result in no action, I learn about the thinking and processes that go into conducting the public’s business.
What continues to surprise me, though, is how few people in any community care to observe this process for themselves.
I applaud those boards that readily accommodate visitors by meeting in a space that includes adequate seating where people may sit and observe, and who speak in a loud enough voice for their comments to be heard.
Also, public bodies whose deliberations are broadcast on public access television are to be commended.
There are some in public service, however, who are suspicious of the public’s interest in their activities, who fear that when someone unknown to them attends a public meeting that they want to complain or find fault.
It always interests me to see a slate of candidates for an office with a group that I cover regularly. Probably 90 percent of the time the people running for the office have never attended a meeting and haven’t a clue about how a group can legally conduct its business.
People may run for office because some action of a board made them mad and they believe they could do better. More often than not they learn that the processes of government limit how quickly and effectively they can accomplish all they hoped.
All in all, though, I believe the people who take on the challenges of public service are to be commended.
They make a major commitment of time and effort, seeking ways to make life better for us all.
On June 2 most of us will have a chance to show our appreciation for that commitment by going to the polls to vote.
Lena Mitchell is the Daily Journal’s Corinth Bureau reporter. Contact her at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.


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