A Statesman in Waiting

You don't have to dig too deep to discover the lure that draws an individual into the world of politics.  Notoriety, power and greed, the promise of easy money has replaced the nobility of becoming an elected representative of the people.  You see it in the laws passed that favor “Them” over us.  Rules and laws that exempt them and protect them from laws designed to punish you and I.  They, as employees, decide when they should get a raise and trust me they see to it that they are paid and paid very well.  Right here in my home state in Texas, a commissioner in Montgomery County earns more than the actual governor of the entire state of Texas.

So, imagine my surprise when I see this ad for a candidate running for a seat on the Commissioners Court in Houston’s Montgomery County.  Gregory Parker while “On Air” declared that if elected, one of his first actions would be to cut his own pay.  Let that sink in, he wants to cut his own potential salary returning the savings back to the taxpayers, back to the community he hopes to serve.  Now Mr. Parkers platform is broad, it covers many issues and if you live in Montgomery County Precinct 2 I would encourage you to check out his platform.  He has common sense reforms for issues like Toll Roads, taxes, budgets, emergency management and response, eminent domain and many more critical issues to voters. However, for now I want to focus on this issue because it represents an attitude missing in public service today. 

From local elected representatives to those sitting in Federal office you can find examples of individuals who went into office with meager savings, businesses limping along or in some cases with no actual job before the election to the seat they now occupy.  Fast forward a few years and you see individuals flush with cash, personal cash.  Take a moment out of your day and look at some of the financial disclosures of those you elect.  What you will find will astound you.  People elected to serve the public are among some of the wealthiest among us.  Ex Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went into office with a few thousand dollars to his name and now has a net worth that exceeds $30 million.  Former House Speaker Denny Hastert, a former wrestling coach before becoming a congressman, just settled lawsuits and paid vast sums to victims of abuse.  Right here in Texas there are examples of this and it isn't a right and left, conservative or liberal phenomenon, it is an endemic reality in our current political structure. The question must be asked, how do individuals, earning a public service salary, grow their nest eggs at a rate that is unfathomable and unavailable to you and I?  It is because the era of statesman, the era of serving the public interest has given way to the era of personal gain at “We the peoples” expense.  Hucksters now proliferate the ballot gaming a system they created.  Good intentions of some are twisted into submission by lobbyists and easy money.  In the end, the price for admission is betraying the public trust. 

So, again, imagine my surprise as I sat and listened to Mr. Parker pledge to work on cutting his pay in favor of returning that money to his community.  It is a simple yet powerful statement that tells me this is someone who understands the role of a public servant, someone elected to office to represent those who voted for them.  Webster’s defines a Statesman as:

 “1: one versed in the principles or art of government; especially: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government or in shaping its policies

2: a wise, skillful, and respected political leader “

When you picture those sitting in the seats of power at home or serving you federally, ask yourself, do you consider them Wise?  Do you believe they serve your interests?  Do you believe they use their skill to serve you or do you see what I see, individuals serving themselves?  Do the policies they pursue serve the public good? Do you respect them or, like me do you know at your core the system is broken and elected representatives have become distant and disconnected?  Election season is upon us.  Now is the time we look over the menu of candidates seeking to represent us. Those asking We the People to entrust them with not just our hard-earned money but our future as well.  I don't live in Houston’s Montgomery County, I live in Dallas but I can tell you that as I look at those asking for my vote I will refer back to the words and the pledge of Gregory Parker to his constituents as a litmus test of sorts.  I want to elect those who fit the definition of “Statesman” and I believe that if we demand better, if we expect more and if we find those with the values and promises of Mr. Parker, we can turn our collective wayward ships out of the current self-serving storm of personal gain into the calm waters of a new and prosperous future for We the people.  Of course, that is just my take.