Yesterday I lunched with a friend who in a different life was mayor of her small town. As might be expected, the conversation turned to Jim West, her own experiences and the responsibilities that come with public office. We discussed West's claims of having not broken any laws and admission that while perhaps not prudent his actions in his private life should be just that - private. He had done nothing to deserve removal from office.
My friend disagrees. Her opinion is if you hold public office you basically have no private life. You are always under scrutiny and you owe the people who believe in you and elect you to be beyond reproach in everything you do. You are the representative image of your community.
The twists and turns of real life are curious. In Mr. West's case a good community turned a man with no sense of moral or ethical value out of office. The fact that he just doesn't get it is eerie and disturbing.
In my friend's case, she resigned from office because of stress inflicted by some self-serving, unyielding and mean spirited citizens who were throwing a public tantrum because an issue that didn't please them was being forwarded. She got it all right and was, politically speaking, mortally wounded by the way they chose to handle matters.
Neither story has a happy ending. A once able and talented politician's career is finished because of ambition, poor judgment and really, a contempt for his constituency. Another's ruined by not being willing to bend to pressures that would have lead to the wrong decisions for her city.
As an election year approaches perhaps we can learn from both. It pays to scrutinize your candidates before you elect them. Really scrutinize them. No hidden agendas. If there are skeletons, let us see them and let us decide. The best and the brightest don't tend to run so much anymore; the scrutiny can be brutal but so can the wrath of opposition. When the scale between integrity, ability and fair mindedness becomes unbalanced we all lose.