By all accounts, Thanksgiving 2012 was one to remember fondly, and Christmas is one to anticipate with great promise. As we leave one and set our course for the other, there is one group of people we’d like to acknowledge as being steady, unheralded contributors to the quality of life we cherish here in the North Country: the people who toil on the myriad of boards that oversee our public institutions.
We often praise (or criticize) about the job lawmakers on all levels do for us, from national all the way down to village. We assume they’re used to the bricks, as well as the bouquets, as they’re so often the recipients of one or the other.
And, for that, they’re paid. On the local level they are not paid what the job is worth. You could argue about the salary and other benefits of state legislators and members of Congress.
Not only are they paid, they collect a share of publicity, usually positive, and gain a favorable standing in their communities. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of criticism, but if the majority of people didn’t agree with most of what they do, they would not be returned to office.
The people we want to spotlight are the true public servants of our region: the members of boards who work, free of charge, anonymously for all sorts of organizations that are so vital to the smooth functioning of our communities — libraries, YMCAs, Hospice, public housing, food shelves and the like.
These people give their valuable time to make decisions that will keep these crucial groups afloat and percolating. Those decisions aren’t always easy or popular. Sometimes, the members have to hurt the feelings of people they know and even people they are close to. This is a lot to ask of a private individual who agrees to join a board, not out of the prospect of any personal advantage but purely out of an ideal to make the organization better for everyone.
They’re not paid to be on these boards and rarely are accorded any perks beyond personal satisfaction.
And, while we’re at it, let’s include what we believe is the most demanding public service of all: school-board membership.
School-board members operate in a very public forum and make many of the most important decisions the communities face. They risk the scorn and retribution of their friends, neighbors and even relatives, all for the advancement of education in their hometowns.
They and the other board members are our real public servants — a term too often thrown around on anybody who has a job on the public payroll.
All we can say to all of these citizens is a sincere thank you and keep up the good work — please!