OP-ED: We’ve got some important hiring decisions to make

By Marsha Michaelis

It’s May, and the job applications are rolling in…

Nationally, some of our fellow citizens are asking us to hire them to be the President and Vice President of our nation and hold positions in Congress. 

At the state level some are asking for the power to write and enforce laws, hold the purse strings for billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, manage the schools that shape the lives of more than a million children each year, decide what is done with publicly- and privately-owned land, and make binding decisions as a member of the state’s Supreme Court.

Locally, some of our neighbors have asked us to give them authority to manage our county, decide cases in our courts, and represent our personal policy convictions in powerful organizations.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the people we trust to fill these important positions will have a significant impact on the fate of our nation, state and county, and an even more significant impact on the lives of individual people: our family members, friends and neighbors. 

It’s absolutely essential that we choose excellent and worthy people for these jobs, and if you’re a citizen of the United States who meets the eligibility requirements to vote, you’re on the hiring board. You have a duty to make responsible and wise decisions for the wellbeing and service of your country. It’s literally the very least each of us can do.

This is a serious responsibility. It requires understanding what it takes to uphold and maintain the principles of our nation and which qualities make a person fit to do so; it requires the sober work of evaluating the individual people who are extending their hands to receive power over the lives of others; it requires some time and effort and thought.

Each one of us has “got it to do.” We can’t abdicate our responsibility as citizens without consequence any more than a father can abdicate his role in his family without consequence. Absence and inaction where duty is required are always destructive.

Last fall, I pulled a very beefy voters’ pamphlet out of my mailbox, only to discover more than half the pages inside were empty. Of the 98 people asking me (and you) to give them an important public trust, two-thirds had failed to provide even basic information for the one publication mailed (at taxpayer expense) to every single voter’s mailbox.

That felt like an insult to the boss (we the people) and a gross mismanagement of the boss’s money. This year, we should require better.

First, we must require better of ourselves: When was the last time you read the United States Constitution? It’s not very long (it takes about an hour to read the whole thing aloud), but it’s the ultimate authority for every policy and public decision made in our country. (Furthermore, if you’re a member of the group called “We the People,” your signature is on the bottom line.) The Constitution’s practical application pairs perfectly with the Declaration of Independence—1,300 words that capture the heart and soul of the nation. 

So, here’s a simple challenge:

Read the Declaration and U.S. Constitution and try to understand them. Identify just a few principles from them that you can use to evaluate the people asking you to trust them with the responsibility of preserving and applying those principles in positions of power. (You might consider asking candidates some simple questions about those principles; if they’re unable to answer, they’re probably not qualified for the job.)

Second, we must require better of those who want to hold powerful positions:

Take time to find out which positions you’re hiring for this fall, and who is applying. You can get this list from the County Auditor’s office (509-684-7514). The deadline to file for candidacy is May 10.

Let your local candidates know you expect to see their meaningful statement in the voter’s pamphlet (deadline for statements is May 21).

Take time to carefully consider each candidate: It falls to you to either affirm their application (and thus help fill a position with someone who will carry out important duties well) or oppose it (and thus help keep an unfit candidate out of the office).

Share what you’ve learned with others and consider what they’ve learned in return, and then cast your vote.

Here are five meaningful questions you can ask of any candidate:

  1. What is your understanding of the purpose of our government?
  2. What is your understanding of the purpose of this particular office you’re seeking?
  3. What is your understanding of the limits on the authority of this particular office?
  4. Why are you the best person for this job?
  5. How can I reach you if I have further questions after I’ve given this some thought?

If it feels like hard work to carry out your duties as a voting citizen, it’s probably because it is. Almost all worthwhile things require some hard work. The Apostle Paul gives us real encouragement for the task though:
“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” The blessings of noble, restrained and competent leaders are inestimable, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren.

Marsha Michaelis can be reached at marshamichaelis@gmail.com.