We are in an early summer pause before national politics remind us that Democracy rarely produces consensus of opinion. The mid-term election season will arrive shortly after the Fourth of July. Propaganda for various sides will begin flowing. Most voters will veer and avoid as best they can, like trying to miss a turtle crossing the road while at the steering wheel. While I am prepared to duck and dodge, I also find myself with an extra measure of respect for citizens who serve cities and counties at the local level, whether in elected office or as appointees to various committees and commissions. Platte County is solid and secure in basic services for taxpayers as the County celebrates a 175th anniversary. That doesn’t mean that mistakes haven’t been made, oversights corrected, or that I agree with every move or comment made by the many city and county officials I’ve watched serve. But I do understand and respect their challenges. I recently completed a roughly eight-year run participating in governance of a national organization devoted to all manner of outdoor communications. My service concluded with a term as president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, which ended a few weeks back. The experience, as another former president termed it, was educational. You can attend public governance meetings as a citizen or as a news reporter and get a good feel for what is happening as decisions are being made. But you really don’t know the pressures, frustrations and satisfactions unless you’ve felt the constituents’ eyeballs boring into you as an important decision must be made. I am proud and grateful for my chance at making wheels turn and sometimes stopping them from spinning. But the experience also makes me respect a bit more those who serve a community in some fashion. It’s not that I haven’t appreciated public servants in the past. Journalists are paid critics and observers of government and communities. It’s our job to put forth ideas about what’s wrong as well as what’s right. The former tends to get a little more play, mostly because trouble is more interesting to media consumers than “all is well.” But it makes media and government seem a bit more at odds with one another than the realities that exist at the local level. Local media and government officials tend to find themselves sharing a boat as they paddle on the seas of public opinion. Both sides see important and meaningful business being conducted. Public servants and reporters both find themselves worrying and wondering why more people are not paying attention. Many times I’ve seen an alderman, mayor or county official sworn into office who was determined not only to steer public policy but also to push media aside or into place. I’ve also seen reporters begin coverage with zero sympathy. Gradually, officials begin to value communication channels with the public and they’re glad reporters care. Reporters realize they’ve witnessed hard work without much glory. But even for an old reporter like me, the heat feels a little hotter when you’re tending the stove. People you know on a casual-friend basis may surprise you. Relationships change when you’re conducting business. There are a multitude of community service venues from churches, schools and service groups to those with ties to municipal government. But they share one thing in common - multiple parts make them function well, or not. A chair, mayor, president or commissioner may be a focal point or spokesperson. But paid staff, volunteers and those elected must be interconnected and energized or nothing happens. It’s like admiring the styling of a car from the outside, but thousands of parts inside (that work) are what moves passengers down the road. A volunteer community leader or elected official has a special place in their heart for those who undertake a task and do what they said they would. People take civics and government classes in high school and college. A deeper education occurs in service. America would likely be less gridlocked politically if every voter knew from experience that issues are usually more complex than a sound bite. Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.