So it’s one of those weird things where I ended up holding an elected accounting position in my township of about 1200 people. The job pays OK, but if I were to do the day job in the off-hours I would make two-four times as much, but I don’t do that because I don’t want to, so I wasn’t happy with the elected job as a job from the get-go. However I felt, and still feel, that it’s what I can do to help the community out. Do note it’s not that my efforts haven’t gone unappreciated, they have, perhaps too much, and I will point out that you’re not going to live an anonymous existence in a town of 1200 people.
No, the worst part is the time. At least one day a week, generally Sunday, must be taken out to do paperwork, and then three meetings a month. Additionally there’s lots of “one-off” tasks (training, going to the bank, etc) that sponge up precious vacation time. Around Christmas last year I looked down, and up, and realized an entire year of my life blasted by me without my even knowing, and at my age I’d prefer time move as slowly as possible. Thus, early into the half-term I was serving out, I resolved that I would not run for the office, that surely there would be someone else who would want to do this, and the fact that there was turned out to be part of the issue.
I’ll digress here for a moment to give an overview of the “industry”, such as it is. When I was hired-in it also turned out that the state is currently struggling to get anyone at all to do this job and to do it in a remotely competent manner. Every training session is met with a note of how many new attendees there are and I thought this would taper out but my impression is the churn is just as bad as new accounting clerks determine the job isn’t for them and quit out. I mean, it’s good to feel that I’m not alone in my displeasure for the job, but what does that mean for the future of the state, of the country, when the competent people would rather have nothing to do with the guts of governance.
Meta Point Number One: In my state I see what an effort it takes to have decent bookkeeping on all government levels. In lesser states/communities I will guarantee this is not happening. This will only get worse.
Anyway, in the township there was a woman who had held the clerk position for decades but had quit after….I’m not quite sure. This happened before we moved here and I tell people that, outside looking in at the paperwork from the time, it would appear she started to “lose it”. She baselessly accused other people in the local government of breaking the law and generally raising a stink over people not holding to procedures in a manner she deemed proper (this, coming from the woman who, as near as I can tell, never issued a 1099 the entire time she was in office). She ended up rage-quitting and leaving the township in a panic to find someone who could at least fill in temporarily.
Fast forward several years and her husband ends up getting elected as one of the trustees and the accounting clerk at the time ends up resigning (for a variety of reasons but for which I’ll summarize as: the job sucks). At the time all of this was unknown to me when the call went out to find someone to finish the last two years of the clerk’s term which I reluctantly took up after a month and a half of the township looking for someone. After I was appointed I came to find out that the former long-term, mentally unstable, clerk was vying for the position, but since she was married to one of the trustees (who couldn’t vote for her) and had needlessly made an enemy out of one of the other trustees (which is something she is good at), she would not have the votes to be appointed as I was.
I should point out right now that had I known all that I wouldn’t have applied for the position. Even now after she has done her best to slander me I consider her more annoying than anything. And that was the view I took into this past summer, telling my wife that if…Crank Lady was running I wasn’t going to run as I wouldn’t have to worry about the township finding someone to do the job. But…then people who been made enemies of Crank Lady, which was not a short list, started asking me to run, and then followed by people who genuinely preferred the job I was doing to what had been done in the past. I will note that even at this late date, had Crank Lady approached me and made her case I would have deferred to her candidacy and I would have been able to tell people that I couldn’t run because I promised I wouldn’t, but…
Against this I was responsible for processing the bi-annual fiscal audit of the township. I will admit I had a lot more shortcomings in this regard than I cared for but when the draft audit report came in I noted that there was no reason to not just sign off on it despite it’s many flaws as trying to resolve the flaws would cost money and to no financial benefit of the township. The only thing it might do is assuage my accounting clerk ego, if I had one, and not addressing the issues would have the upside that I knew Crank Lady would step into flaws as hard as she could.
And of course, being more predictable than a dog around an unprotected bowl of cheese, step she did. I will note that the primary issue with the audit report in general is thus: nobody cares. If I have to open an Excel sheet to show why I’m a better candidate then I’ve already lost. However I left a big landmine in there and did not (sufficiently) contest the finding saying that I, and the former clerk, hadn’t done our training. In another age this was probably a Really Big Deal, but I knew that the state was struggling to find anyone with a pulse to do this job and that it would rank low. Of course what made it a landmine was that I had done the training, just that I had grown sick of the low-watt auditor giving me grief on my documentation. So when she sent out campaign literature saying I hadn’t done my training I sprung the trap.
I should point out though that this trap was laying out in plain site as I had gone over all of that and more at a meeting that her husband attended (but, being 80+ years old and hard of hearing he does kind of fade in and out), and it’s not as if she couldn’t contact me about it as she had repeatedly taken the time to harangue me about all kinds of meaningless (to me) matters in the past. But this brings me to:
Meta Point Number Two: The current, aging system relies heavily on deference to authority. In the military it’s referred to as “saluting the rank not the man”, but after a certain point, when there are more questions than answers from authorities this breaks down.
Crank Lady and her husband carry a great deal of deference to job titles, in this case “auditor”. In my day job though I deal with real auditors, auditors who can get me fired from my real job. Against this I just had a hard time taking a $50 an hour private contractor seriously as an “auditor” (and they were just as petty as one might imagine). Anyway, instead of questioning the audit results with an open mind they treated it like Moses had brought the audit report down from the mountain, and it clearly rattled them that they might be in the wrong. Enemies of Crank Lady said that I should work to open a criminal probe against her (as lying in such a way in a campaign is illegal in the state, which I have a hard time believing) but instead I just emailed her concerning her oversight and she ended up mailing an apology letter to people that she had spread the lie to.
I’ve only touched upon the high drama for what may be, literally, the least important elected position in the state. And I’m not just talking about in terms of the title for the position, I mean that this clerk position is the least important. In other words, the clerk position itself is the least important, and if all the clerks in the state were assembled as a body that specific elected position that I currently hold would be in the bottom ten percent easy. Insult on injury I recently learned that the clerk in the neighboring township that I got along with somewhat had decided not to run (for a variety of reasons but for which I’ll summarize as: the job sucks), making me wonder “why didn’t I think do to that?”. To which I will mention:
Meta Point Number Three: Direct, open voting sucks at finding competent bureaucrats, or even not-so-incompetent ones. In this case the voters, who no nothing about accounting, are tasked with choosing the best accountant for their township (who I should mention, is also not required to know anything about accounting).
So that’s where I’m left at now, I don’t want to lose, but I also don’t want the job. The idea of spending every weekend and several other days of the month locked into this job for the next four years fills me with…I don’t know, exhaustion I guess. It’d be nice as a part-time retirement job I guess (my opponent is in her 70s) but I will note: I won’t be able to vote for myself. This is not to say that I will be voting for Crank Lady. It’s like I tell people: all she had to do was not be a jerk for four months and she couldn’t even pull that off.
Meta Point Number Four: This one is more opaque but it has to do with a community in general. I regularly hear from the trustees of them getting yelled at by residents who make Crank Lady look like the patron saint of civility. What’s the “redemption arc” though? A community doesn’t want to be defined by it’s “cranks” but at the same time there’s no method to address their behavior. In a more enlightened age people who were poisonous to their community, to their people, would go in the pillory to have rotten fruit thrown at them for a weekend.