Who’s inside the tent?

December 17th, 2019 by Ken

President Lyndon Johnson was famous for appointing critics of his policies onto to boards and commissions that oversaw those same policies.  When asked why he replied “I’d rather have the son-of-a-bitch inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

Many government agencies, including local jurisdictions have adopted that concept.  Make critics part of the process and they’ll have no recourse but to support those policies.  One of those who was well-known for doing that was Dr. John Gott, who for 20 years was superintendent of the North Thurston School District.  Critics of his actions were soon appointed to some newly formed committee, which had no authority but lots of exposure.

I point this out because it happened to me.  Everyone who knows me knows I’m a big supporter of Lacey.  I’ve been a fan of my city for decades, but I haven’t always been a fan of Lacey city government or those who represent it.  I operated under the assumption that no one is perfect, that no organization is free from mistakes, and that no one should operate without someone keeping an eye on him.  In many cases in Lacey, I felt that I was the person keeping an eye on it.

Despite all of that, I found myself serving on the Lacey Historical Commission.  Hell, I pushed for the creation of the historical commission and was appointed its first chair.  I served on the body for 13 years.  I began to think that the City of Lacey was way ahead of all other local jurisdictions when it came to preserving its history, and I still believe that to this day.  From that standpoint, I was inside the tent.

When the City of Lacey was beginning the celebration of its 50th birthday, I was appointed to the birthday committee.  For more than a year, I worked with city staff and representatives of other boards and commissions to make certain that local residents had an opportunity to be a part of the celebration, to learn more about the city’s history and to be proud to live in the best city in Thurston County.  I found that I liked the city staff, that they did have the best interests of the city at heart and that they were also human and had all of the attributes and assets that we all have.

I was now living inside the tent.

I tell this story, because recently some of my friends claim that “I’ve sold out.”  The want to see the old Ken Balsley raise hell and hold the elected officials feet to the fire.

OK, I’ll still do that.  I won’t do it very often, and I will make sure the fire isn’t too hot. And, I’ll do it all from inside the tent.  It’s nice and warm in here.

Posted in Government, History


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