I've been looking back at the last few months -- and I am continually surprised at some of the reactions that I have been getting as I go around the County and speak to folks about what we are doing as an office. It's a nice response to the work we've done, which includes lots of listening and learning from the lessons of the past.
For example, as I was leaving the commencement exercise at Phoenix College (where I still teach as an Adjunct), a law enforcement officer stopped me and told me, point-blank, "I'm a conservative republican, and I just wanted to tell you that you are doing the right things. Keep up the good work."
It was a lesson for me, and somewhat a validation about the decisions that we are making in office. I have a feeling it had to do with the way we are working the voter registration system, but he was not specific, so I cannot assume. Anyway, it was good to hear and it was important for me to know... people are watching what is happening.
That's not a thing that you hear about much, this idea of people paying attention. For example, we can look to the campaign I went through to get here. I expected to hear some things about me that folks just know, but they never came-up. My opponent never talked much about my career in criminal defense. It's not something that folks couldn't easily find, I have been doing it for years in pretty public cases. But I just thought folks didn't end-up caring much because that's not what this race was about.
So the lesson I thought I learned was that folks would just focus on what was pertinent to the office, no matter how cynical we are (generally) about politicians and politics.
But it goes a little farther than just an incident or two in person, or the nature of my past career. My lessons learned are actually what inform my decision-making and policy. Anyone with a few years under their belt knows that these life experiences, where successes and mistakes make-up the tapestry of one's life journey, are really valuable.
Let me tell you about another set of lessons I learned when running for office. In fifth grade I was the class treasurer. I don't know why we even had one, but we did, and I assume it all went well. In college I ran successfully for student senate, then for one of the executive spots. I ran and lost more than once. In spite of victories and losses, there were important lessons learned. One time we passed a 'formal' bill through the student senate that 'thumped' the campus newspaper for their reporting. It was childish, but it passed with almost a unanimous vote because student politics are not the most serious of endeavors. There were poison-pen columns, vicious seeming letters to the editor, allegations of misconduct, missing newspapers and all kinds of typical college hijinks back then. The competition among and between several student campaigns was fierce, but it was a good learning environment. Lots of young people learned lots of lessons from those formative years. But we knew we were there to learn, and I'm glad to say that I continue try to learn still, nearly three decades later.
Today, I see the value in good and bad prior decisions. Learning from what we see, hear and experience adds value to today and tomorrow's decisions... if you bother to take the time and learn. So now, I look carefully to the professional staff in my office. I look to them not for campaign or political advice, but for professional counsel on elections policy. They have the experience. They have seen the good times and the bad times. The managers and staff at the Recorder's Office are bringing their good and bad lessons learned to the table, and we are listening to each other to make better decisions moving forward.
I will keep listening to the lessons learned from our folks. I will continue to do things with that experience and allow it to help guide our decisions. I will not shy away from the experiences of the past, good or bad, personal or institutional, so that we can continue moving this County forward and get the work of the people done.