Image: Hazel the maid, which Shirley Booth portrayed in the situation comedy Hazel from 1961 to 1966. Hazel represented the perfect model of American government.
Publisher’s Note: If you are an elected servant, please beware. This editorial will strike you as condescending. It’s not, but that how it’ll strike you. This editorial focuses on how citizens should approach government.
Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence contains the following statement at the core of the system of American governance:
“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
More directly, Section 552.001 of the Texas Government Code provides:
“Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people…” (Emphasis added.)
Those two statements answer a question this newspaper receives from our readers more than any other the gist of which is: with the corruption The Golden Hammer has uncovered, what can we as citizens do?
This editorial attempts to answer that question. In other words, if all of those people that we elect are our servants and we are the masters, how does that relationship suggest that we should handle servants, such as Charlie Riley, James Metts, Stephanne Davenport, and others, who are openly corrupt?
The master-servant relationship
First, we must examine the actual relationship between master (citizens) and servants (elected officials and anyone who works inside of the government). By the way, that’s an important point: anyone who works inside of the government is a servant of the citizens, not just the people whom we directly elect.
Let’s examine the master-servant relationship. Hazel is a wonderful example. Hazel the maid was a very competent “take-charge” maid who lived with the Baxter family. The Baxters would ask Hazel to perform certain tasks, such as making the beds each morning.
When the Baxters requested that Hazel make the beds, they set the policy within the household (“Please make the beds, Hazel.”) Hazel the maid would then make the beds utilizing her amazing skills. Hazel knew how to tuck the sheets, place the pillows, and place the children’s stuffed animals in the right locations better than any of the Baxters could ever do.
The Baxters left Hazel to implement their policy and would correct Hazel only if she made a mistake.
The relationship between citizens and elected servants is essentially identical to the relationship between the Baxters and Hazel. The citizens set the policies, such as “no tollroads without voter approval” or “reduce government spending.” It is the place of elected servants, such as Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts, or Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, to utilize their skills and to expend their time to implement the policies which the citizens have formulated. They are the servants and the citizens are over and above them on the governmental organizational chart.
When the servants stray
Like Hazel, strong servants, such as Keough or Noack, may utilize their own initiative to determine how to make the citizens’ policies, but they, like Hazel, should not stray too far from the masters’ directives.
The method by which Hazel always made certain that she stayed on track, as far as the Baxters’ ultimate directions, was in her constant communication with each and every member of the Baxter family. Hazel was an exemplar of openness and transparency in service.
When secrecy develops, however, the masters (citizens) clearly know that the servants have begun to go astray. Metts hired his girlfriend Diane Rogers in secret. He hired convicted felon Greg Long in secret. He strong-armed County Judge Mark Keough to give him Keough’s salary savings in order to build up his slush fund in secret rather than in an open meeting in front of the citizens.
Unlike Hazel, Metts refuses to communicate with his masters. During the electoral campaign, Metts refused to speak at any except the most controlled public event. He’d never answer questions in a candidates’ forum.
Those are signs of a corrupt servant.
Nevertheless, the remedy for the problem of a wayward servant is readily apparent: communication. Since Metts will rarely communicate with his constituents in any sort of give-and-take conversation, citizens must seek Metts out to try to correct their wayward servant through citizen comments, newspaper coverage detailing his corruption, and efforts on social media and other platforms to spread the word that there is a servant who has run away from the directives of his masters.
In fact, that’s precisely what Metts is: a runaway servant who refuses any direction from his masters.
Just as Hazel the maid required Mrs. Baxter to get her back on track once in a while, so does Commissioner James Metts the servant require citizens to get him back on track once in a while.
The servants’ wrongful reaction clouds their greatest moments
Politicians are usually among the most insecure people. Many of them don’t like citizen input, because they fear that, if they follow citizen direction, as the American system of government would dictate, they’ll appear weak.
Only the most insecure and genuinely weak politicians have that reaction.
In reality, however, when elected servants act to implement the policies of the masters (citizens) defines the precise moment when they appear the strongest, because they have the full force and authority of American philosophy behind them.
That’s the brilliance of Keough’s “Contract with Montgomery County.” Keough worked directly with the citizens to establish some broad principles under which he would implement the more specific principles the citizens also sought.
When Keough reduced his salary by 12%, the new County Judge rightfully had the strongest visage he held during the entire January 8 Commissioners Court meeting. At that moment, the citizens of Montgomery County were squarely behind the principle which Keough joyfully implemented.
Doing the masters’ will doesn’t make a servant look weak. Rather, it makes a true public servant look strong.
That’s another message citizens should communicate to public servants who appear to struggle with the genuine master and servant relationship, which both the Founding Fathers and Texas leaders have defined.