There are plenty of public servants out there who take that “service” business seriously. (The OHP officer who came up behind me on the shoulder after a tire disintegrated one morning — and volunteered to put the spare on for me — qualifies easily.)
And then there are the ones that don’t:
I don’t know what it is — does power corrupt, or does the promise of power (and the perks it carries) attract people who are perhaps less scrupulous? Or is it harder for the earnest and awkward and honest to navigate the minefield that is small-town politics? Hard to know. (Though I think some of these are appointed positions …)
Again, I find it frustrating. I know it’s because I carry some remnants of the childhood belief that there should be fairness or at least justice in the world, and I get frustrated that if I park a little bit wrong in a space, I face a $20 ticket — which I then feel bad about the rest of the week, and not because I’m out $20 — but other people embezzle or intimidate or whatever and seem to feel no remorse for it. (And in some cases, the people-doing-wrong do it for years, and accumulate a lot of “goodies” before they are found out). And yes, I know, I shouldn’t compare my life to other people’s and I should be “in it” for service to others, but it does make me frustrated to see so many people working hard and scrabbling and sometimes not getting the things they need, when others break the rule and seemingly get every want fulfilled …
One factor working against good government in small cities is the absence of local media coverage: radio is mostly syndicated stuff, television is piped in from the nearest megalopolis, and your daily newspaper’s ownership is in some place like Davidson, North Carolina.
(Actually, I think Davidson is a really nice little town busily mutating into a suburb of Charlotte, twenty miles to the south, and they have one of the great small liberal-arts colleges, but they’re probably a long way from your town’s centers of power.)
And yes, there’s the Golden Rule, but we’ve been off the gold standard for decades.