This is the time of year, it seems, when a lot of leaders in our communities are moving on to – or at least trying to – what I call the “Bigger Better Deal.” That’s where you (or they) try to climb the ladder to higher position, more money and more status.
Recently, Oliver Chi left his job as city manager of Huntington Beach to take the same job at Irvine after just two years in the job.
In local politics, Garden Grove City Councilmember Diedre Thu-Ha Nguyen has announced her intention to run for the 70th Assembly District seat. She previously ran – without success – for the 72nd Assembly District seat in 2020.
Another councilmember, Kim Nguyen, is seeking election to the Orange County Board of Supervisors for District 2. The list goes on and on.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to advance, to take on bigger and more interesting challenges. But aren’t there interesting and big challenges at “home”?
Part of the problem is our term limit laws and rules that push office-holders to always be looking for the next opportunity. Can anyone say with a straight face that term limits have given us a clearly superior brand of politician?
That aside, it seems to me that it takes time to master a task and become as able in your responsibilities as you need to be.
Looking around Orange County in general and The Tribune’s coverage area of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster, can we not find significant problems and opportunities that still deserve our attention?
The homelessness crisis is still not under control; only one of our four cities has a proper shelter. Precisely what to do with all the federal largess has not been ironed out. Some of our roadways are looking a little ragged and there are neighborhoods in all our cities that you would not want to depict on a brochure for tourists. How will we adjust in the post-COVID world, if there is one?
Has your work been finished? Are they no more hills to climb close to home?
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have our local talent move up to the Bigger Leagues. A good example is Janet Nguyen, who went from the Garden Grove City Council to the Orange County Board of Supervisors to the state legislature.
It’s fair to say that even from Santa Ana or Sacramento, she has done more for Garden Grove – for instance – than any other county or state lawmaker we can think of. Others show up for the occasional ribbon-cutting or “feel good” photo op, but she kept close connections with her community and delivered on many issues.
I wish good luck to our local leaders as they pursue their goals. They’re good people. But I hope that folks interested in public service would also consider the rewards of blooming where you’re planted, of staying the course and being around to craft the solutions at a level at which you have much more influence.
Yes, there are more gaudy horizons to be seen. But there’s an old Cherokee expression that I find especially striking: “Wherever you are is the center of the universe.”
Center of the universe. That seems like a pretty interesting and important place to be.
Jim Tortolano’s “Retorts” column alternates with “Usually Reliable Sources.”