Tim Palmer

Tim Palmer

Politically Incorrect: Bring back the civil servant

Tim Palmer

Special to the Review

Once upon a time, municipalities had civil servants—employees whose job was to serve the residents. Today, we mostly have bureaucrats who act as if the public should serve the bureaucracy.

Its time to bring back the civil servant.

Today servant is a very unpopular term. No one wants to be a servant. Regrettably, it has become a negative word synonymous with an abused peon. The title civil servant has largely disappeared from use in context with municipal employees and their elected officials.

In my opinion, this loss of identity has resulted in a decline in the quality of public services.

What is a civil servant?

Civil is an adjective pertaining to the ordinary citizens, like you and I. Servant is simply a person in service to others. It is not a slave or any other derogatory inference.

Municipal employees provide services to the community’s residents. They are “civil servants” by definition.

What is your experience with interaction with your municipal government and its employees? When you enter municipal facilities, do you feel immediately welcomed? Or do you feel unwelcome, an inconvenience?

Entering many town or city halls today can be a very negative experience. In those cultures, if acknowledged at all, you are met with a frigid welcome. You have inconvenienced the establishment with your presence.

Some employees, after years of public service without the clear strategic priority of civil service, are no longer there to serve the public. They have become conditioned to collect a wage, build a pension and serve the municipal bureaucracy, rather than its residents.

Of course, there are always employee’s who are shining stars. In fact, at Revelstoke City Hall, there is one person who epitomizes the caring civil servant. For this article, I will not use her real name. I will call her Nice because, well, she is nice — to everyone. Nice is even nice those who don’t deserve it. Those who work in City Hall probably know what Nice’s real name is.

If Nice is at the front desk, you are greeted cheerfully when you enter City Hall. Even when it is very busy, Nice will give you a direct glance and a smile. In an instant, you exist and are important. That nice smile goes a long way.

Nice is the sunshine in the sometimes-gloomy bureaucracy.

Everyone at City Hall could learn the techniques that Nice implements throughout the day in her interaction with others. Nice is always nice to people.

Even the councillors could learn from Nice. The council members are generally pretty good people; however, some are from time to time dismissive of people that have opinions that don’t align with theirs.

Perhaps they could ask Nice to give a workshop for employees and councillors on how to be nice to citizens. She can show what it really means to be a civil servant. Nice will demonstrate that being a true civil servant is an honour and elevates you in public esteem.

After a lengthy delay, the Revelstoke city council has released its, politically correct, strategic plan. Hopefully, city staff will create an implementation plan and share that with the public. The strategic plan frequently refers to municipal services.

At the very end of the strategic plan, it states the City of Revelstoke will “focus on creating a service culture to improve service to the public.”

It is unclear how they plan to focus on that noble achievement of public service. And there is a good chance they haven’t yet told their employees of this objective.

I suggest bringing back the civil servant would be a good start in transforming the service culture in the city. Yes, that would be nice.

Tim Palmer, a municipal bureaucrat for more than 25 years, now assists municipalities.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Figure skaters in the old skating rink in the 1940s. 
(Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 4034)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Nov. 26

A look a local history as recorded by the newspaper

Cst. Dane Storey was recognized as a member of Alexa’s Team, a provincial recognition paying tribute to police officers who make an extraordinary contribution to reducing the number of impaired drivers on the roads. (Submitted/Revelstoke RCMP)
Alexa’s Team awarded to Revelstoke RCMP officer

Cst. Dane Storey removed 59 impaired drivers from B.C. roads in 2019

Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens for the season tomorrow, Nov. 27, 2020. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Know before you go: Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens tomorrow

Masks are mandatory, lineup opens at 6:30 a.m.

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Summerland residents have been receiving a telephone scam with the number showing as the telephone number of the local RCMP detachment. (Black Press Media files)
Summerland RCMP telephone number spoofed in scam calls

Number used in scam attempts from tax agency

(Village of Lumby photo)
Mysterious, loud ‘boom’ shakes North Okanagan residents

Village staff, Earthquakes Canada aren’t sure what caused the explosion-like sound

Clarence Fulton students collect cash and non-perishable food donations for families in need in their community Friday, Nov. 27. (Jennifer Smith  - Morning Star)
North Okanagan students collect food for families in need

Annual event to support nine school families this year

Take a break from the slopes to discover the rich culture and diversity of Vernon. Michelle Beaudry photo, courtesy Tourism Vernon.
Tourism Vernon could see 40% cut to budget due to COVID-19

New approach to help residents and visitors activate their adventures

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Penticton law courts
Osoyoos child sex offender in court

Shawn Titus, 37, is charged with possession of child porn

Leighton Allen Labute faces charges of animal abuse and allegedly has a string of social media accounts depicting disturbing content.
Accused Kelowna hamster killer has trial date set for 2021

Leighton Labute’s three day trial is scheduled for Aug. 16, 2021

Most Read