I serve as the man behind the curtain – the mysterious figure with a very quiet but present voice. I am simply a servant to those that I inform. The most audacious of public figures become emboldened after counsel with me. The general public seeks answers from my expertise. I am supposed to be the knowit-all smart alec at your convenience.
In the same breath, I am not a friend or a partner. I have only two loyalties – to know what I know, and to know more and better than the person seeking advice. This existence isolates me. In the mist of battle between two opposing forces, I am the collision point of advancement. I am the gravity to the floating concepts. I am in a peculiar place, where I am asked to meet dreams and introduce them to reality.
I am the bureaucrat. I am the errand boy – the person that does all the dirty work – all the clean up. It is my job to understand all the rules that govern decisions made in my realm. I am the artist. I craft the rules so that they provide protections commanded by the general public. These same rules are demonized as “hoops” and “red tape” by that same public.
That’s me: the bureaucrat. The little person: a probably underpaid and perceivably over paid staff person who knows the rules better than his boss, and his boss’ boss. The prestige of the position is nothing luxurious. An antigovernment sentiment represses the importance of this position while seemingly diminishing the responsibilities of advancing the public good to rudimentary tasks and procedures based around issuing permits.
Day-to-day tasks require bureaucrats to defend codes and rules that were adopted for the general health, safety, and welfare of the public. I am to be the first line of defense. It is my role to check extreme action and to mitigate extreme consequences of those actions. Today’s society generally cheers the fire fighter that runs into the burning building, while demonizing the fire inspector who enforces the “bureaucracy” of building construction standards. A comprehensive thought should acknowledge that bureaucratic preventative measures are also a critical service.
While used as a term of belittlement by outsiders, the title of “bureaucrat” and the notion of “bureaucracy” are derogatory terms among those that carry the burden of protecting the integrity of regulations. The title, “bureaucrat,” has the stigma of a do-little, red-tape, hoop creator who will only cost enterprise and businesses additional resources – financial or otherwise. The external and internal critique of bureaucratic positions deteriorates the deserved respect of the professional training by the engineer, doctor, lawyer, and architect whom also happen to be defenders of regulations.
So then the question develops, “How should professional bureaucrats reassert themselves as essential and laudable components in society?” To this, I will refer to the loyalties of a bureaucrat cited above. I should be most knowledgeable, not for the sake of being pompous and arrogant but to be of the best service to the public. Bureaucrats should not allow themselves to be reduced to permit pushers. As guardians of regulatory codes, we should aim to keep the rules relevant to advancing technologies, evolving culture, and most of all the vision of the public, which the codes are there to protect.
It is my belief that if I, as bureaucrat, remain proactive and thoughtful in my service to the public then I could change the perception of the position I hold and the perceived hardships of regulations. These are the things that I consider everyday as I walk into a public office where the doors behind me don’t restrict anyone from walking in. Whoever walks through that door, it is my job to be of grade A service to them – even if they hate that they are required to visit the smart alec, paper pushing, red-tape, hoop creating public servant. I am at your service – the bureaucrat.
Chris Chavis is in the professional field of Urban Planning. He specializes in Land Use Zoning, Land Use development, and Community Revitalization. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned a Bachelors of Art degree in Urban & Regional Planning. After three years of working in local government as a Land Use Planner, he pursued and obtained a Masters of Environmental Planning & Design (MEPD) degree at the University of Georgia in Athens. Now as a working professional, Mr. Chavis is attempting to use urban planning as a social justice instrument for all communities. By doing so, he hopes to revitalize distressed areas and help developing neighborhoods implement the visions of their futures.