Last Tuesday was the Carrboro Board of Alderman’s last public meeting before they take a short hiatus for the summer. And boy was it a doozy. This meeting covered the gamut from a poetry reading by Carrboro’s own Poet Laureate, to several resolutions proposing changes in the land use ordinance, to a heated discussion about parking. At 7:30pm, I sat ready to take ample notes but by 11:45pm I was doing my best not to slouch against the wall like a child who is up way past her bedtime. But let’s be honest, I was up way past my bedtime.
This meeting was an eye-opener, even though by the end of it I was having trouble keeping myself awake. In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about how local government is always working. What I forgot to mention is that this means if I want to work in local government, I have to give up the idea of working for a traditional 9 to 5 job. Civic engagement is a huge element of all governments – but the public cannot always engage in the convenient traditional work day hours. Therefore, the public administrator and elected officials have to be available to facilitate the conversation on the public’s schedule, which means giving up at least one week day evening.
The day after the meeting, many of my co-workers asked me how I felt about that “marathon meeting.” So, I took some comfort hearing that the length of the meeting was not the norm (because I get grouchy after 10pm). I also spoke to the Town Manager about all of the hours of work outside of the traditional work day and he helped put it in perspective. He said that for him, the job is about public service and doing your best for the people of your town, so sometimes that means you are essentially volunteering your time to your job because your job means that much to you. It’s not about profit, it’s about people. So if that means staying up past your bedtime on a Tuesday, you do it because in the end you know you are working toward a worthy cause. So I would say that this meeting was an eye-opener in that it taught me that public sector work requires a lot of passion and dedication and luckily there people out there who have exactly that.
And even with my best attempts to disguise that fact that I am not a late night person, my cover was blown. The next day, I had several people say “you looked rough by the end of the meeting, late nights aren’t your thing are they?” Nope, they’re not, but I’ll work on it.