Question of the day: How hard should I try to ignore the urge to retire from public service?
I have one year left to serve on the local Planning Commission. We are limited to two, three year terms. I considered getting off the Commission in time for the annual new member selection in March. Every year the Commission has two open spots, guaranteeing staggered terms which are good for continuity.
Why now? Why not just stick it out through the end of the year?
Last month’s Planning Commission was a bummer with a contentious public hearing that seemed to drag on forever. At one point I lost my temper. I ended up being the only “no” vote on a new redevelopment site plan review. I didn’t like the way the issue was presented to us. Our decision will set a precedent for future similar developments. It seemed that we couldn’t delay our decision to gather more information because this project was rolling forward and was expected to be at the City Council by a certain date. That made me feel like a rubber stamp.
It often feels like we can’t slow things down and hold a matter over another month for more staff work or time for commissioners to consider the matter before voting. As it is, we usually find out about the agenda items the Saturday before a Wednesday meeting, giving us only a few days to read the materials and visit the site(s) of the agenda items.
So I felt rushed in the meeting, I would have preferred more time to consider the issue. Top it off with the fact that the big development issue came after more than a one hour public hearing on some new lights being proposed by an athletic field at a local college – or University as it’s now calling itself.
A small but vocal group of neighbors came out to complain about the proposed lights, and also raise all sorts of complaints about existing operations at the school. I know I take criticism personally and some of the folks were just mad at the city or the system, but it really got under my skin. As the years have gone by I find I’m much less patience with the average citizen, especially the rude ones.
The older I get the more valuable time becomes to me. Recently I find I’m anxious at events where I feel I’m “wasting my time”. I want to leave, go home, go back to my desk – anywhere where I can do things on my own time and my own terms.
As for the Planning Commission, I could stick it out – see it as a challenge. Maybe I need to overcome my anxieties about contentious public hearings. Perhaps my service can help me develop skills I either don’t have or might want to develop. But I had those skills in my younger day – I’m just much more impatient as I grow older.
A wise friend once told Shana when she was complaining about some upcoming volunteer obligation: “If it causes so much grief, why do it?”
“Why do it?” That’s a good question.
Perhaps we “do” because so many “don’t. Once you start volunteering for stuff – school committees, board memberships, you become the type of person who is called upon even more to serve. As I learned back in Cub Scout leader training (yuck!), don’t ask for volunteers from the group of folks who are currently doing nothing. Sure they have time to spare; but they don’t want to get involved. Seek volunteers from those parents who are already busy. The do-nothings will continue to do-nothing, while the volunteers always say, “Yes” to more.