Breaking news: Karen Dubrinsky and Deb Romano are winners of Sally Goldenbaum's giveaway. Please contact her at sgoldenbaum at gmail dot com to claim your books!
LUCY BURDETTE: This winter in Key West I participated in the Key West Ambassador program. For sixteen weeks, a class of about 25 people interested in learning more about the city attended classes every Thursday afternoon. We visited the waste treatment plant, the fire station, the police station, the Navy base, and the town's offices, and heard presentations from every department you could imagine. We also had to attend at least one City Commission meeting, featuring the mayor and six commissioners. The final class was a roundtable with the commissioners, where we were encouraged to ask all the hard questions we could think of. I learned so much about how the city works.
Unfortunately over the past six months, the papers have been loaded with stories about conflicts between several of the elected officials. This peaked in a six-hour marathon that only ended because Key West statutes don't allow a meeting to go on after midnight! The meeting featured one of the commissioners telling the mayor to "man up," and the only female commissioner scolding the rest of the gang for lack of civility.
Great stuff for a mystery writer, right? But it also got me thinking about what kind of person runs for political office, from a town position on up to United States President. (Which seems like the worst job in the world to me.) And I decided I would be a dreadful politician. I don't like fighting with people. I despise long meetings. And my skin is too thin to take a lot of public criticism. (A crummy review is bad enough!)
How about you Reds? How would you be as a politician? Ever been tempted?
HALLIE EPHRON: I am forever grateful that there are people in this world who want to go into public service. Talk about thankless -- someone always disagrees with you. Loudly. And the pay is usually meager. Somebody's got to do it, and fortunately there are takers.
RHYS BOWEN: The only time I was involved in any kind of politics was when the local council tried to close our high school. It was a stupid move, with all kinds of underhand political implications (like the chairperson was best friends with the real estate developer who would have been given the sale of the land) and it would mean our children would have faced a difficult commute on a crowded freeway to a school of 3,000 plus. So we assembled a committee and fought it. During that time we had to attend every local council meeting. It was suggested that one of us needed to run for local council. "You" they said to me. But fortunately we had some heavy hitters on our team, including an environmental lawyer and a D.A. We managed to change the city constitution so that no school could be closed without a referendum from the voters and WE WON.
But it made me see how awful those meetings are and how I would hate to be involved in any kind of politics. Most politicians I have met are not doing it for the public good (some are) but because they have big egos!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: My first real jobs were as a staffer in various political campaigns..I loved it, and really thought that was the way to change the world. And I still think it is. (Sadly, no one I ever worked for actually won.) I also spent almost two years as a staffer on a subcommittee of the US Senate Judiciary committee--that was during Watergate and Nixon's resignation. It was fascinating, life-changing and educational. It makes you realize how important it is to have kind, thoughtful, compassionate, open-minded, unselfish and incredibly smart people running the place. When we get self-centered blowhards, that's when it all collapses.
LUCY: Hank and Rhys for office! Wouldn't they make a formidable slate? What about you, Red readers, would you make a good politcian?