You're a Public Servant

Evan Farley, ‘20

September 2019

Picture this: You have been working for the NYC Parks Department for 7 years, designing concepts for parks all around Brooklyn. You work more than you should and attend meetings pretty frequently, well after working hours have elapsed. At these meetings, people yell at you for the work you have done. It does not matter how much work you have put into the project and all the considerations you have taken into account when grappling with the bureaucracy of the NYC Parks Department. Not only that, but you work side by side with a consultant who is getting paid more for part-time work on this two-month project than you make in six months. But he is not giving the PowerPoint presentation you meticulously put together; his extra pay does not constitute a hazard bonus, apparently. So it is just you, standing in front of the projector in an elementary school auditorium that is way too hot, and where nobody can agree on anything except the fact that you have done a terrible job with the project for which you got a master's degree.

Or, perhaps, this: you’re the community affairs director for a state assemblyperson, one of the four people who work full time in the tiny district office. Three or four times a week, including most weekends, you have to go to an event to represent the representative who has been doing the same job for close to two decades. It's not looking like there is any path to higher office, either. A lot of people at these events do not even know what the state assembly is and much less who their representative is. But the people who do know are never happy ones. The constituents with the niche interests about some controversial policy get angry at whoever will listen, and there you are. 

It barely pays the bills but it fills the soul. No disclaimers have to be made at the start of the meeting that: “I’m a for-profit developer but I promise you my company wants the best for the community, and that is what is motivating me here.” The daily grind is more brutal than a Chicago sausage machine but there are few conflicts you must juggle. Quarterly reports focus on the quality of life rather than the quantity of cash. At the end of the day, public service has the potential to make the daily life of people even a little bit better, and what else is there for which to strive?