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Thursday, October 8, 2009

It doesn't make the headlines...

Recently in Massachusetts there has been a lot of grumbling within the media and among citizens about incompetent and greedy government officials who are either on the take, unfit for duty, or milking the system for perks and pension privileges that those in the private sector could only dream of having. Regrettably, there is truth to some of the stories of state and local officials who, through their laziness or malfeasance, have tainted the reputation of the vast majority of public employees who work hard and smart every day on behalf of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth’s communities.

Yes, recently “retired” Massachusetts House Speakers have had a difficult time staying out of trouble. And there exist the occasional corrupt school superintendent or public safety official. Like you, I hope these rogues are rooted out in rapid fashion. Clearly, though, these misfits do not represent the vast majority of public employees most of us know.

Too often missing from the headlines are the hardworking, caring, and resourceful state and local employees—cops, teachers, parks employees, state officials, and numerous others—who not only put in an honest day’s work but successfully cooperate with one another to make our communities better places in which to work, play, and live.

Local officials in Needham represent the majority of public employees who do the right thing on behalf of their constituents as a routine part of their job. Over the last year and a half, for example, Needham Town and School staff, State Representative Harkins, and elected and appointed Town committees worked collaboratively with one another and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to remedy a significant indoor air quality concern at a local elementary school. Working together we have identified the problem, proposed a solution, and learned a week ago from the MSBA that the Town is eligible for $8.6 million that is partial reimbursement for a planned renovation of the school.

The competent, intelligent, and thoughtful advice and guidance of MDPH’s Michael Feeney and the MSBA’s Katherine Craven and Mary Pichetti, among dozens of other state and local staff who work with them, was welcomed, necessary, and invaluable. And they are all public employees you have likely never heard of and certainly not read about in the paper. These folks work long and hard hours and are always available by phone or email to answer a question or help out. They are responsive and responsible, and they go about their work quietly with little, if any, recognition for a job well done. Their work is not necessarily glamorous but their humble and steady public service and commitment makes our community and our schools better, cleaner, and safer places.

I am proud to work as a public employee in the Town of Needham and in Massachusetts. I am also honored to work with all the local and state employees and officials here who may not make the headlines but certainly make this community and Commonwealth a great place to live and learn.

You can learn more about our school renovation project here: http://rwd1.needham.k12.ma.us/newman_renovation_updates/

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