“Creating and implementing a code of ethics is a fundamental way we can demonstrate that we care about the public…”
I’ve often said becoming a politician is much like becoming a parent for the first time. Once you decide to run for office, all energy and focus goes towards the end game: to win. But when the candidate becomes the politician, there is no manual given to tell you how to be a good one. Every person brings their own ideas, history and values to their position, making politics one of the most interesting and dynamic professions out there.
From my earliest days as an Anoka County Commissioner, one of the issues to emerge that has become one of my hallmarks, is promoting best practices in Anoka County. In my opinion, we can improve in many areas to serve our communities and partners better.
Recently, I have discovered that Anoka County does not have a code of ethics for our commissioners. We have numerous policies in place for our staff to address ethics, conduct and conflicts of interest—all with potential consequences for not following. This is not unusual. Many businesses and nonprofits of large and small sizes have a code of ethics in place for staff. Why is this an accepted best practice across so many organizations? Because it clearly sets the expectation of professional standards for staff. They in turn will have consistent, high professional interactions with their clients. Everyone wins.
Several counties in Minnesota—Stearns, Ramsey and Dakota to name a few—have adopted their own code of ethics. Some Commissioners sign off on them every year to re-state their commitment to serve the public at the highest standards. Examples of topics in their policies included: acceptance of gifts or favors, use of confidential information, use of county property and resources, conflicts of interest, codes of conduct, and consequences for breaking the code. Each county gets to decide whether they want to adopt one or not.
The Association of Minnesota Counties, of which we are a member, provides a code of ethics sample document and encourages all counties to consider.
Wanting to establish formal ethical standards for county commissioners is not a political position. In fact, it is one of the best cases of an a-political issue there is. I say this because “ethics” do not belong to a specific party. They never have. Ethics belong to all of humanity.
Being an elected official means having a position of privilege and authority. More than that, it means having the trust of the public. Creating and implementing a code of ethics is a fundamental way we can demonstrate that we care about the public and then hold ourselves accountable to them. I am willing to hold myself accountable to you.
I still haven’t received that “manual” on how to be a good politician. Until I do, I’ll keep slogging away, doing my best to navigate through this incredibly complex and ever-changing landscape called politics.
Read my previous blog about politics HERE.
Mandy Meisner is the Anoka County Commissioner for District 4 (Fridley, Columbia Heights, Hilltop and part of Spring Lake Park). District 4 is the most diverse district in Anoka County. You can connect with Mandy on Facebook.
This blog is not an official communication of Anoka County, and does not represent the opinion of anyone else on the Anoka County Board, Anoka County staff, or any other body Commissioner Meisner serves on.
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