Our job focuses on ensuring an open dialogue
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 6, 2004
After the swearing-in has been completed, and after new public officials take their posts serving the citizens who elected them, there will be a strong inclination to do business the old-fashioned way.
Those newly elected officials, who have grown accustomed to running a private business in private, must understand that things will be a little different now.
Shortly after new Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson received the oath of office, she called an executive session of the city council. Reasons for the session were not given, and any action taken during that session also was not released to the public.
It would not be proper for any news medium to immediately call out a newly elected public official for convening an executive session during his or her first government meeting. Indeed, there are personnel decisions that must be made, and personnel decisions often take on discussions of good name and character of employees.
For that, it is improper to say that a public official broke the law Monday night when the new Demopolis City Council met for the first time. That is not what we seek to imply, nor is it what citizens of Demopolis should take from this opinion.
What we do want public officials to understand is that each of you has been elected by the citizens of this community. The same is true for Eutaw and Marion, where new mayors now preside over council meetings.
By the very nature of the title “public official,” each council member and mayor should know that your job is not to run city government like a private business. Yes, in the private life, budget and personnel decisions are made behind closed doors. On the same level, there is a time and place for personnel decisions on the government level also to be discussed behind closed doors.
However, public officials are simply an arm of the public. You hold office because the citizens elected you – not for any other reason. Holding such a position requires a great deal of responsibility; it also requires a great deal of openness.
Over the next four years, you, as public officials, will be forced to make tough decisions. Those decisions, in the end, will affect the citizens who live and work in your communities.
It is your duty to maintain an open relationship with those citizens.
It is our duty, as the press, to help ensure that relationship.