Taking Time to Give Thanks

“I love my job,” I told the radio announcer who called to interview me about my job and running for re-election.  I explained that a legislator’s job is really about solving problems. I spend many hours working on legislation to help solve the state’s problems.  But I am thankful for the time I spend working to solve the problems of people who call or write asking for my assistance.

Some are starting a new business, some are retiring. Many are worried about making ends meet and many more are without health insurance.  And lots of people are at wits end trying to navigate the confusing maze of government bureaucracy. 

This is true for folks who are working hard to improve their communities.  From a walkway along the river, to supplying clean water, to building a safe intersection, I am thankful for the opportunity to help people work through the bureaucratic maze necessary to bring federal recovery dollars to their communities.

And I am thankful for all those who work in local government. I recently had the opportunity to spend time on the phone sharing some good news with those who serve our schools, counties, cities and villages.

A recent audit revealed a surplus in a fund used to provide property insurance to local government. With no advertising, low overhead and no profit, this state administered program provides inexpensive property insurance to local government.

As co-chair of the Joint Audit Committee, I saw the audit findings as an opportunity to offer assistance to local governments.  I was able to negotiate a one-time credit that will reduce the insurance bills for our local units of government by about half.

As I shared this information with local officials, I learned more details about the tough decisions they face. One school board president tried to hold her emotions as she explained how the reduced cost for property insurance made money available for the field trips the school had to cancel. Several county boards told me they had or thought they might have to lay off people.

Our local elected officials – those who serve as sheriff or on the county board, city council, school board and town board – give so much of their time and talents to find ways to make really tight budget still meet the needs of local people.  But they don’t work alone.

Our service organizations, veterans groups, domestic violence shelters, food pantries and non profit organizations are all doing more with less. People have less money to give and more people are in need.

Our community volunteers now often wear five or six hats – from the Legion, to Boy Scouts, to the parish council, to firefighter and EMT.  These volunteers make our communities safe and strong.

Keeping our economy strong requires profitable farm families.  Right now many of our farmers are struggling as the price of milk has dropped well below the cost of production. As we gather for Thanksgiving, remember our farmers.  Many have sacrificed their health and their knees so we can afford a Thanksgiving Day feast.

The life of a dairy farmer is rewarding but tough. The long hours, extreme weather, broken equipment, piles of bills take a toll on one’s health.  I recently had a total knee replacement, the result of too much time on my knees – milking cows.

The recuperation process gives me a renewed appreciation for the challenges facing disabled persons.  And for those working in health care - like physical therapists.  I now know “PT” really stands for Physical Torture. But I am thankful for their patience in teaching me to walk again. Thanks to all our dedicated health care workers.

And thank God for our health. I also thank God for bringing us to the point of thoughtful discussions of health care reform.  I pray for the day our work makes health care affordable and accessible to all.

My work can be both frustrating and rewarding. The best part of my job is being able to help solve problems of those who call for help.

And I thank God for the voters who gave me the opportunity to give this part of my life to public service.