An open letter to political appointees

Congratulations, your candidate won. You now are being rewarded with a government job for all the hard and tedious work you did on the campaign.

As a recently retired government employee who saw eight presidential transitions, allow me to give you some friendly advice as you embark on your new job.

Keep in mind that you are no longer working for a candidate. You are now working for the U.S. government and for the American people. Also remember that federal employees have not been at a standstill awaiting your arrival. They have been working just as hard as you keeping the government functioning. And they will continue doing so long after you’re gone.

I strongly urge you to get to know your new co-workers. The vast majority of them are hard-working, dedicated and caring individuals. Seek their guidance, their wisdom, their knowledge. Do not ignore their brain power. They have a wealth of information that can be very helpful to you in your new job. Gain their respect by showing them respect.

The late Edward J. Derwinski did that when he selected three career civil servants to be his top aides when he became Veterans Affairs secretary. As a member of congress, Derwinski served on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee so he saw first-hand the value of career civil servants. Like you, they are professionals who are dedicated and committed to their work and profession. They have a noble mission and noble values that transcends politics. Learn to respect that.

Also, while many of you may be working in Washington, I advise you not neglect the folks in the field. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “The people in the field are the closest to the problem, closest to the situation, therefore, that is where real wisdom is.”

It is my strong belief that when you leave government, you will come to admire and appreciate the outstanding work of career civil servants who truly do a remarkable job.

Again, I wish you well in your new job.

Ozzie Garza
Arlington, Texas

(Ozzie Garza retired from the federal government on Dec. 30, 2016, after 45 years of service, 28 of those years spent in Washington, D.C.)

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