GUEST OP-ED: The price of public service

As most Americans are by now aware, there was a tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, this past weekend. At least six people were killed, including a Federal judge, a nine year old child, and four others. The perpetrator targeted a quite remarkable woman, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, who was critically injured along with 13 others.

In 2003, I had the opportunity to attend the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University as a Caroline L. Gross Fellow from New Hampshire. A very talented and absolutely terrific young State Senator named Gabrielle Giffords from Tucson was also in attendance.  I thought at the time Gabrielle had a lot to offer and took the opportunity to get to know her and work with her on a number of program projects.  She quite simply represented the highest ideals of public service.

After the program we communicated from time to time and when she went on to Congress I lost touch except through my in-laws who live in Tucson and proudly sport a “Giffords for Congress” sticker on their vehicle bumper (which I must add is because I pointed her out to them when she first ran for Congress).

Although by no means did I agree with all of her public policy perspectives, I was so impressed with Gabby and her qualities that when our second daughter was on the way and my wife and I were deliberating on names, we came across “Gabrielle” and I thought to myself, if our little daughter eventually becomes anything like the Gabby Giffords I knew at Harvard, she’ll be quite a person … so the name stuck — Gabrielle Selig.  How deeply saddened I was, how deeply saddened we all were, this weekend when we learned of the Arizona shootings.

Public service is a calling, and it lies at the heart of all we do as selectmen, councilors, planning board members, state & federal elected officials, public works personnel, police officers, firefighters, library employees, and more.  It sometimes requires sacrifice and often requires courage.  Women and men who serve the public interest, who speak with integrity and intelligence, and who work for positive change are essential to the very fabric of our democratic society.

Days later in the wake of the senseless events in Tucson, we all need to pick ourselves up and ask, Is this the America in which we want to live?  I do not profess to know how to change it all, but I am convinced that each of us in New Hampshire and across the nation have the responsibility to be OUR BEST.   If we can through our individual efforts bring about respect and belief in a better world, we will have come a long way.

Todd I. Selig has been Administrator for the Town of Durham since 2001.  He has served in a variety of positions within both the municipal and school sectors including positions in Raymond, Laconia, New Boston, Hopkinton, and now Durham, NH.  Named as one of New Hampshire’s “40 Under Forty” by The Union Leader in 2005, Mr. Selig currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.  Originally from Laconia, NH, Mr. Selig resides with his wife and two daughters in Durham.

Author: Todd Selig

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