I live on a gravel road in Alexander Twp. A famous politician once said “ all politics is local”. If you live in an un-incorporated area of the county, the Township is the most important level of local government in your daily life. The maintenance of township roads protects not only the safety of me and my family but also insures access by emergency and other vehicles to my home.

I want to thank the Alexander Twp. Trustees and especially their road crew for taking such great care with our road. We chose to live on a gravel road. We have never requested nor has anyone ever promised us that our road would someday be upgraded. So one has to expect the problems of keeping a gravel road smooth and safe all year long, especially in the most difficult weather. Yet, despite these challenges and faced with continuing budget issues, the road crew keeps our road functional, even in the worst weather. They have always been responsive to any concerns we have expressed.

Athens County has a very high concentration of public service employment. Ohio University, Hocking College, the local school districts and local government provide a large number of job opportunities. Forty years ago, when I started my time in teaching and welfare casework, entry level public service jobs paid less than a great many private jobs, especially in manufacturing. Times have changed. The good paying manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low wage service sector jobs. Many public jobs are now more likely to provide a decent wage. Not all actually do.

What has changed with this evolution has also been the respect shown to people who chose “public service” as a career. When people took public sector jobs in the past it was often based on their commitment to provide education, law enforcement, safe roads, social services or other functions that advanced the overall good of the community. Most public employees today still carry that commitment to care for their fellow citizens. While the wages are better than many grossly underpaid private sector jobs, few people would see a public sector job as a path to get rich or famous. The vast majority of public employees labor day in and day out with little recognition. Their behind-the-scenes work keeps our society functioning. Teachers, police officers, public health workers, and a wide variety of other essential services make our lives much more productive and safe.

Although public employees play such important roles in our community, it seems that they get little praise or recognition from their leaders. Think hard about the last time you heard a governor or president make a speech praising state or federal employees. On the contrary, governors of both parties have bragged about reducing the number of state employees. The current federal administration only lists the private sector job increases when tooting their own horn while ignoring the public sector job losses as if they don’t matter. How ironic, since no governor or president could do their jobs without the hard work of public employees. So I wanted to take this opportunity to start closest to home in expressing my gratitude.

There are 14 townships in Athens County. Each has three elected trustees and fiscal officer. They also have a small number of staff who perform much of the road work. Their budgets are extremely tight and have seen very little in the way of increases for more than a decade. They frequently have old or outdated equipment. Yet they make do with what they have. They are motivated by their very real commitment to public service. They keep us safe. It doesn’t take very long to call the Township office or stop by when you see them working on the road and say “thank you”. Please take the time to do this. We are all in this together.

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Jack Frech is a retired director of Athens County Department of Job and Family Services and a member of The Messenger’s Board of Contributors.

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jhiggins@athensmessenger.com; Twitter @joehmessenger

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