Nothing frustrates me more at work than the following two things: one) fellow employees who don’t care; two) public members who think I don’t care.
As a public servant, I take public service seriously. I chose this line of work because I wanted to serve my community and make it a better place. Unfortunately, a lot of public servants don’t feel the same way. First of all, in California, one on the salary of a local government employee can rarely live in the community in which they work, so most of them commute out from farther out. This often leads public servants to not care as much about being efficient to keep fees down. I live in the community for which I work, but I rent because I can’t afford to buy. I want to keep water fees down and trash fees down because I pay those same fees! I worked at a large air pollution control district (APCD), and because it was so large, almost every employee also lived in the APCD. Because we and our families were also breathing in the polluted air, we had extra incentive to try to reduce pollution as much as we could as quickly as we could.
So many people think public servants are overpaid, and in part, that’s true. The lowest level employees of a local government make more than the equivalent position in private industry; however, the higher you move up the ladder in local government, the larger disparity in income between you and your private industry equivalent. Compare the City Manager for the City of Sacramento. The City is 99 square miles with a population of 486,189. 4556 employees serve the City including police, fire, parks and recreation, public works, water, trash, street maintenance. In 2010, the City Manager’s taxable wages were $229,348. This includes benefits and base pay. Compare that to the CEO of Tejon Ranch Company. Tejon Ranch is 422 square miles, with most of it being wild lands that are practically inaccessible. Currently, the population of people living on Ranch land is very small. There are a few corporate owned homes housing less than 100 people. There are fewer than 100 employees. The largest divisions are agriculture and hunting. According to www.hoovers.com, the CEO of Tejon Ranch makes a base salary of $466,667. This excludes benefits and bonuses.
When public employees are attacked as being lazy and not deserving their pay, I get angry, but at the same time I understand. The apathy of public servants who stopped caring or never cared taints the way people see me. I am still shocked when people are surprised at the customer service I give them. Sometimes I get asked if I’m giving them special treatment. Honestly? No. I treat every customer with respect and do my best to help them. I’ve received thank you notes from those who really appreciate what I’ve done. That makes my day.
Please remember that public servants sometimes WANT to serve the public. I didn’t get into this work for the pay. I got in it to help you.