Lead or Serve?


Very few people today have household servants in the old-world style.

If you have a household staff of 20, including a butler, a lady’s maid, a few footmen, chamber maids, and scullery maids, and a couple of game keepers for your hunting pleasure, you are – to say the least – unusual.

Nobody can afford servants like that today, and very few people would work for the pitiful salaries servants used to earn. So, the age of servants is over. We are on our own and we do everything for ourselves today, right?

Of course, that is wrong. We have more servants today than any civilization on earth ever had. We have tens of millions of civil servants who work for everybody. We pay them much better than they used to be paid, too.

Our servants today come in two varieties: hired and elected.

It’s that second category where we have the most trouble with our servants. The question is simple and frustrating. Do our elected public servants do what we want them to do? Do they really serve us?

Naturally, the answer is Yes and No. The problem is that we don’t all want the same things. There is no elected official, no politician, who can ever make everybody happy all of the time. Yet we are in the habit of blaming them for not doing what cannot be done.

The worst effect of that is that those of us who do not get what we want call our elected servants “crooked” or “power hungry,” while the people who get what they want call them “heroes” and “geniuses.”

William Cohen, who served in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, and as the US Secretary of Defense, once wrote, “My research debunks the myth that many people seem to have . . . that you become a leader by fighting your way to the top. Rather, you become a leader by helping others to the top. Helping your employees is as important as, and many times more so than, trying to get the most work out of them.”

Stated more simply, “The king should be the servant of his people, and seek to uplift them and their lives,” according to author Aleksandra Layland. In other words, the best leaders serve their people.

This week, The Jamestown Gazette brings you Jamestown’s long-term mayor, Sam Teresi, soon to retire from office, and asks him about his years of service.

Nobody who runs for public office can possibly believe he or she will make everybody happy all the time. The only sane reason to run for office, knowing both success and failure are guaranteed, is the desire to serve as many as possible as well as possible.

That’s hard work. We invite our readers this week to be inspired by all of our elected officials, whether you agree with them or not on every issue. Would you put yourself in a no-win position simply for the sake of serving? If not, congratulate any man who would, like Jamestown’s Mayor Sam Teresi.

A public servant who comes back for more, election after election, cannot promise to please everybody. Even the voters who are disappointed should honor the bravery and courage it takes to serve. That’s the bi-partisan truth.

Enjoy your retirement, Mayor Sam. You’ve earned it.

And, readers, enjoy the read.
Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.