COMMENTARY

Austin isn’t Washington D.C.

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Since I entered public service in 2009, first as a member of the Cedar Park City Council and now as a state representative, I’ve met thousands of people in our area.  As you can imagine, they come from many types of backgrounds and are from all across Texas and the nation. Even though there is such a diversity of people in our area, I often hear the same themes.  People frequently say things like, “I could never do what you do,” or “I could never put up with all of the bologna.” (I’m censoring here to meet editorial standards and to keep this family-friendly). 

Sadly, it is easy to be cynical about politics and government.  Many of us can point to leadership failures, gridlock at the national level, real examples of public corruption and waste in government spending.  I try to not be dragged down by the negative aspects associated with politics and instead focus on trying to solve such problems, while leading by an example of ethical and selfless service.

Even in a sometimes-cynical world I believe that public service is an honorable pursuit. I understand that it is easy for us to criticize our leaders when we see failures in leadership, or when we see items of personal importance that go unaddressed. In my current role as a legislator I see the wheels of the legislature move slowly, as it is designed to, and it can be frustrating for me too. However, the rewards of service can be great. Sometimes it manifests itself in new laws that may help protect the most vulnerable members of our society, or it may be directing tax dollars to important societal goals like improving quality and accountability in education.

In some cases it can be more personal, like receiving a call from a family whose son is suspected of being held for ransom in Mexico, or a call to aid a single mother and her kids after suffering domestic abuse. It may even be a call from a soldier’s family who will soon be visited by an Army chaplain to receive tragic news, and they want you to be there.  All of these things have happened to me.

It is not always the difficult circumstances that make your phone ring. It could be celebrating the naturalization of a new citizen, or the joy one receives from learning their son or daughter has been accepted to one of our nation’s military academies. There is also great satisfaction in passing a law and then reading in the paper that online child predators have been caught by law enforcement, prosecuted and  put in jail far away from our children.  Now that is something that can bring a smile to your face.

In Texas, we are blessed.  For all the flaws we may have in our system of government, we do not suffer from the gridlock and hyper-partisan environment that one sees in Washington, D.C.  Democrat and Republican members of the Texas House and Senate literally sit side-by-side, not separated by an aisle.  We interact with each other.  We ask each other questions and learn why our colleagues like or dislike certain policy initiatives.  Rarely do we change each other’s minds, but we understand each other’s perspective and we have rational and professional conversations.  Actually, the vast majority of bills we pass are bipartisan in nature. There is a saying in the House to “put Texas first” and to “vote your district.” That is the kind of attitude many expect from public servants.

State Representative Tony Dale is Vice Chairman of the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee and is a member of the Environmental Regulation Committee. He is Chairman of the Texas House Energy Caucus. He represents southwestern Williamson County, Cedar Park, Leander, Brushy Creek, and parts of Austin and Round Rock. He can be contacted at tony.dale@house.texas.gov.

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