Example for all Public Servants? The Answer is . . .

By Harry M. Covert

Once we recover from those wonderful dinners, it’s an exciting time to decorate for the Christmas holidays, indoor and outdoor lights, beautiful ornaments on the trees, and then the shopping thrills and bills for the season.While the season is unveiling all sorts of fun-filled activities, maybe all of the political conversations can slow down.

Several things come to light these days to warrant interesting talk during wassailing, standing under currier-and-ives-thanksgivingmistletoes, Christmas caroling and, most importantly, for traditionalists praying for a white Christmas. The almanac, Google, and the National Weather Service are being ignored for the purpose of this writing. Currier and Ives paintings for the period are fantastic and cozy as we enjoy the eggnog and other beverages or even send and receive seasonal cards.

A present for all taxpayers is on the horizon. The newly elected president of these United States is setting a good example for all public servants. He’s only going to accept a salary of one dollar per year and donate the rest, $399,999, to a charity to be named. Let’s all get on the list.

Again, he will join another elite group who declined presidential salaries. Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, a mining millionaire, split his pay with several charities and to his staff.

John F. Kennedy, the 35th chief executive, donated his pay to charities as he did as a senator. His daddy was a prolific money maker.

Without question these leaders earned their private wealth outside of government.

Think for a moment. How many public servants on state and local levels ever considered foregoing salaries? Of course, those who devote themselves to public service usually don’t have the resources of financial independence.

dollar-sign1How many would agree to manage cities and counties without remunerations? This is not a suggestion that they do, but it was General George Washington, a wealthy landowner in Virginia, who didn’t take the money, even while he was leading the Revolutionary War. According to history, he only took expenses for his military service and was reimbursed by Congress for financing the war. His ledger is in our national archives.

Mr. Washington did turn down being king. He didn’t believe in a monarchy as suggested by Alexander Hamilton.

The first president is one of two American military people to be ranked as General of the Armies. He got it posthumously.

As we get through the celebration season, maybe a campaign should get under way that governors, county executives and mayors (and those with similar titles) should be officers without pay. Then there would have to be full-fledged ethics rules and regulations not seen before. How many bankers, certified public accountants, doctors and lawyers, Indian chiefs, real estate professionals, sports coaches and players to name a few, would give up pay for public service?

Perusing such suggestion, quite naturally, isn’t feasible to get such talent in the public arena. It’s a nice thought, but not pragmatic.

Well, a dollar a year is worth a lot. The new recipient has the benefit of the federal treasury, government airplanes, all kinds of chefs and food tasters. The next occupant probably won’t want to hang around Camp David more than once. His resorts and assets, like his marble and golden New York palace, may have to be consecrated for historical purposes.

Will anyone dare to temporarily rename the Blair House in honor of the new president? All right. Enough.

Please pass the ham and turkey, gravy, yeast rolls and the rest of the trimmings.



Navel-gazing and Turkey Day

By Harry M. Covert

Navel-gazing and full stomachs are truly the order of today. The worries of the world and surrounding communities can be revitalized tomorrow and wait.

In the meantime let’s think about a hodgepodge of all sorts. I’ve always enjoyed using the word potpourri since the elegant broadcaster Paul Harvey began using it on the radio years ago on daily commentaries. No one on the airways today comes close to him.

Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey

Apologies for a personal reference here. Once some years ago, I decided to enter a political fray. What an experience. I did the normal stuff and started walking neighborhoods, knocking on doors and putting on my smiley faces, even buying a centerfield baseball stadium advertisement. I thought it’d be fun being in the Virginia state senate. On one warm summer day, I greeted a sweet housewife in central Virginia asking for her vote, really begging.

“Get off my porch, I know who you are,” she exclaimed with a scowl on her face. “You called my son out at home plate.”

I jumped off hurriedly almost falling to the ground. I scuffed my nice blue suit with prickly tree limbs.  She didn’t laugh but wanted to and threw the well-printed brochure with my dignified picture on the ground.

To update my by curriculum vitae for what it may be worth, I did enjoy my sideline of calling balls and strikes and outs on the high school and collegiate level for more than two decades, even several in the spring when snow was falling. No kidding.

When a Carolina League umpire almost choked to death on a big wad of chewing tobacco and bubble gum in the mid-1980s, I was called in. Yes, I was privileged and the minor leaguers wanted to test my acumen immediately. At second base, a New York Mets farm hand missed tagging second base by a foot. I called the runner safe. Mr. Met stomped and threatened and said any umpire with any sense knows tagging the base isn’t necessary on a force out in the majors.


Sliding into second base!

Well, I can report Mr. Dykstra didn’t accept the warning. In moments he was dismissed – thrown out of the game – and left the field with some sort of finger salute.

I dropped off a note of this campaign incident. A few days later I was plugged on Paul Harvey News early morning and noon shows. We didn’t have twitter in those days. I sure had fun later acting like a big shot on the trail. It didn’t last long, the voters sent me packing. Back to the baseball diamonds I went for a few seasons and made enough game checks to pay off political debts. A commentator nowadays has its advantages.

Navel-gazing can be fun on this day of the three “effs” – food, fun and family.

Think of life experiences on this great day! There are so many stories to tell. Reach back on those times. Years may be slipping by rapidly for us. We all have exciting events to recall and bring smiles to our faces.

Before Turkey Day was invaded by professional football games, there were tremendous high school rivalries where crowds were exhilarating beyond measure. In my day Thanksgiving was a true holiday. No stores for shopping. The games started at 2 p.m., everybody in their finest and dinners delayed until the evening.

Today, we can still daydream but remember the coming year will be filled with all kinds of opportunities, some good and some not-so-good.

For Frederick, Maryland residents:

Guesses perhaps: Who will be the next Frederick mayor? Will the Frederick County charter government be changed? Will the Frederick Keys, Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, Washington Nationals and Redskins win championships? Will Gov. Larry Hogan get a second term? Will Frederick Towne Mall ever be reconstituted? Will the proposed downtown Frederick Convention Center get off the ground? Will State’s Attorney Charlie Smith be appointed to the Maryland Court of Appeals? Will Hayden Duke be elected Alderman?

The list goes on. I’m taking notes.

This column has appeared in The Tentacle.