Letter to the Editor:
Edgewood Representatives’ Performance Evaluation
When the Edgewood Community conducted its first annual review of the elected/appointed officials who represent us, the evaluation received mixed reviews to include some criticism.
There were some who questioned our intent, since it had the potential to antagonize some elected officials and risk their wrath. Others suggested that an evaluation would take place at the next election. And there were those conspiracy theorists who thought that the evaluation was a ploy by a few elected officials to embarrass others. So with these and other concerns lingering out there, I felt the need to explain what we thought was obvious.
When the idea to evaluate our elected officials was first discussed, many in the community simply wanted to get the attention of our elected officials since all other efforts seemed to have failed. While others felt it would motivate them to get more involved with their constituents.
I have to admit at this time that we succeeded only in getting the attention of and motivating those whom were already involved with the community-namely U.S. Representative Dutch Ruppersburger, County Executive David Craig, County Councilman Dion Guthrie and Sheriff Jesse Bane. (Readers-try not to get hung up on party affiliations-we didn’t).
Personally, I am more convinced now than ever before, that if we or any community evaluated our elected officials every four years, or only on Election Day, that we do a disservice to both our elected officials and the community that they were elected to serve.
I would compare the election of someone to represent the community to that of an employer hiring an individual (employee) to perform work on its behalf.
What “successful” organization/employer hires employees without providing them with some form of periodic performance review/evaluation, to ensure that the employees and the organization are pursuing mutually beneficial goals and objectives? Similarly, in this instance the employee is the elected representative and we, the constituents are their employers. And we should provide them with feedback about how well they are pursuing the community’s goals and objectives.
While I realize that this is not how things are traditionally done, I would only offer the results of this past legislative session as an example of how many could accomplish so little to improve the quality of life for their constituents in Edgewood. We simply can’t afford to let our employees continue to perform in this manner.
If we are satisfied with their accomplishments, the direction in which things are headed, or the decisions made by our elected officials then we should continue doing what we are doing. But on the other hand if we want or expect something different, then we will have to do something different. It is just that simple.
Why-because four years or the next election is an awfully long time to wait to tell the employees in whom we have invested our support that they have been performing unsatisfactorily for almost four years. And, because recent events have shown us that a lot can (and sometimes can’t) happen in four years.
When we elect someone to serve as our representative we give that person authority to make decisions, on our behalf, in matters that affect our way and quality of life. Thus, we have a vested interest in the SUCCESS of our elected official.
We are all human and we (elected officials included) sometimes stray off-course (provided we were on course to begin with). It is our duty as the employers and constituents of our elected representatives to provide all of them with at least annual feedback about their performance.
To do otherwise, jeopardizes not only our future but also the future of our most precious assets-our children. If we wait for the next election, we risk having our elected official losing (if they are not re-elected) any seniority and relationships that they might have built. Seniority, at least on the state and federal levels, is a factor in determining committee assignments. Committee assignments and relationships can determine which bills get introduced and/or passed. If an example is needed, then review the history of the recently passed Blended School Board Bill.
“Some” great benefits that can be derived from periodic performance evaluations of our elected officials are:
– Validates our election choice(s) – did we elect the right person for the right office?
– Provides constituents with an objective measuring tool by which future election decisions can be based.
– Helps the current and future elected officials to better understand what his/her constituents require of their elected representative.
– Provides opportunities to identify and correct problems that the elected official may not have realized existed.
– Serves as a motivational tool to help the elected official understand the consequences of his/her performance (if they expect to be re-elected).
– Offers both the elected official and the community the opportunity to review how well elected officials are doing what they promised they would do when they asked us to vote for them.
– It provides the elected official with an opportunity to explain his/her position, action(s)/vote(s).
With so much at stake, why shouldn’t a community conduct annual performance evaluations of their elected officials? Because once the elected official has been afforded ample notice of and opportunity to fix problems cited in the evaluation process and does not, then we are duty bound to do what successful organizations do with unsatisfactory employees-we help them find suitable employment elsewhere As Soon As Possible.
Our 2009 Performance Review/Evaluation is currently under construction. Any assistance with distribution, collection and tabulating the results will be greatly appreciated.
Jansen Robinson, Chair
Edgewood Community Council