An open letter to our newly sworn officials

By Phil Miller

Keely & Jeannine:

A few thoughts I’d like to share with you as you each join your respective councils. Please keep in mind that this is coming from my experience from 2000-2004 and as an outsider. Things may have changed a bit … but I doubt it.

I am hearing about a little more conversation during meetings. That tells me that possibly some decisions are no longer made in the back rooms.

1. If you do it right, this will be one of the most rewarding and frustrating things you’ve ever done. Don’t pat your own backs even if everyone else is, and don’t ever beat yourself up just because a few people aren’t happy with you. Reward yourself only if you are doing the right thing, and castigate yourself every time that you realize that you aren’t doing this part-time job to the best of your abilities.

2. Please take time to read the proposed laws before you vote on them. Keep in mind that you may be the only one to do that. No, you won’t understand a lot of it, as no one expects you to have the knowledge of a contractor or of the sewage superintendent. We don’t expect you to be everything, but you should expect yourself to be as knowledgeable as possible. If you do that, I bet you’ll catch something that just isn’t the right thing to do, and people will come to respect you for that over time.

3. Remember that you are sitting there with responsibilities to do the right thing for people. Many politicians get it messed up and think they are there to make sure the city/county is the top of the list. Every vote that is taken will have a winner, and every vote you make will have a loser. Make sure that people come out ahead.

4. Good things done are not always the right things to do. Is it a good thing to give funds to nonprofits that are scraping by? Yes, but keep in mind that you are taking money from actual people who are also scraping by. Always come down on the side of permitting people to pick and choose who they want to donate to.

5. Is it being an obstructionist, or is it just asking questions? Yes, many of your colleagues have already made up their mind, and your asking questions will annoy them tremendously. Your questioning just might be a good thing, and your colleagues may just learn something. Keep doing it.

6. Don’t worry about coming out on the short end of the vote. I’ll always be the Hancock County/Greenfield record holder for being the “1” in 1-6 votes. I’ll never understand how those people could be so wrong, so often.

Phil Miller of Greenfield is the former chair of the Hancock County Libertarian Party. He also served on the Greenfield City Council. Send comments to