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Alex Hammer

Reasons Not To Be Governor
By Alex Hammer
Apr 7, 2006 - 12:48:00 AM

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There are, to my mind, some reasons not to be Governor. They include:

1) Self promotion. The office of Governor is not, it seems to be, about photo opportunities and ceremonial duties. It is instead about managing the solving of Maine problems and governing. Sure, when a milestone or achievement is reached Iím sure that the company or institution involved would like some recognition and presence, but canít this in many if not most cases be aptly done by a representative, or alternatively congratulations offered by video or phone? The Governorís time is too valuable to be the official ribbon cutter of the state, and any Governor that needs to have his picture constantly in the newspaper to convince anyone (perhaps including him or herself) that one is doing a good job, has an incorrect set of priorities if you ask me (which actually nobody specifically did but I am writing this column). Anyone with a powerful agenda will have more than enough to do during their day that is more important in most cases than marking anniversaries or handing out awards. Finally, for this point, politics is a service and not a career. Those that are significantly or predominantly focused on building their political career, as an act of self-promotion, can easily miss this.

2) Being a ďball-hogĒ. That was a term anyway when I played basketball. Someone who didnít want to pass the ball, but instead liked to shoot all the time themselves. That is, someone who consistently seeks the limelight and doesnít like to share. They (again, whoever ďtheyĒ are) say good managers share credit for successes to empower others and encourage their contributions. Additionally, unlike poor managers who are very quick to point the finger of blame at others when things start to go wrong, successful managers also assume some responsibility for difficulties and challenges to serve as both an example and source of strength for others (they take on some of the public heat rather than seeking to reflect it, and then go the critical further step of finding solutions). Ball-hogs may either not trust that other people can do the job as well or may have a sense of self-centeredness or entitlement and donít care about getting others involved.

3) Being intellectually lazy. Being physically lazy is easy to recognize. An individual arrives to work late, leaves early, or isnít very productive during the day. Intellectual laziness is sometimes harder to discern, especially because it is sometimes masked by busy, or even frantic activity. There is an apt and important saying that states ďnever mistake activity for progressĒ. The intellectually lazy individual takes the easy way out, no matter how busy they may make themselves or actually appear. For example, they may be pre-committed to an idea, and then spend all their energies looking to buttress their arguments or policies rather than approaching the matter with an open mind (perhaps being highly selective in their picking or reporting of information or data to only that which serves their interests). Or they may consider various sides of an issue, but only superficially rather than in significant depth. It is as though their mind is easily fatigued by rigorous analysis and study, and they just want the easy answer or quick fix. Working on the issues of a state is complex, and to be successful requires a governor of strong (not stubborn) mind. Stubbornness is another form of intellectually laziness, because the answers are pre-determined and then defended.

4) Inability to productively innovate. Tradition can of course be good. But when you are Governor you also have to have, if you want to be successful, what has been referred to as ďthe vision thingĒ. You have to have some clear sense of where the world and the country seems to be headed, or may likely be headed in key respects, and then know how to work (with others) to strategically position the state within that emerging context. Those without strong vision cannot do this. They do not see what is coming and because of this they cannot truly lead. True managers have their operational skills down cold but also have (in the most positive connotations of the term) aspects of the ďvisionaryĒ. People look to them to see what can be done. Or needs to be done. If you donít know (and if it looks like you may be copying too much the ideas of others in important respects than maybe thatís a good sign you donít know).then donít run for the office. Itís too important of a job.

5) Overly partisan. Earlier we talked about the ďball-hogĒ who is obviously not a team player. Some people are excellent team players, but have a narrow or restricted notion of team. Such as: youíre on my team if youíre in my party or if you share my partisan ideology. While one must stand for something one must also be broad enough such that significant elements of the state do not become disenfranchised. Look at how many people feel separate and removed (and often not in favor of) all levels of their government, not just in Maine but overall. There are additional reasons (such as lack of transparency, lack of opportunities for interactivity and solicited feedback and Iím sure many other reasons as well), but one of the major reasons I believe, for these responses by citizens, is that they feel that their government is only listening to some of them, or at a minimum to some of them much more than others. Iím not saying that everything carries equal weight in the world, of course that is not true. But when you lose significant elements of your state something is wrong. Donít run for Governor if you plan to do that. It is amazing to me how partisan some can be and not care that theyíve lost a lot of people that otherwise would contribute (and not just via opposition). I hope itís not just me, but I donít find that healthy or productive.

6) People pleaser. In some ways the flip side of #5. How many times have you seen a politician initially hold fast to a position, but then start to cave in (if not completely cave) once the ground starts to move a little bit under his or her feet due to public pressure of some sort.? What kind of message does this send? You want your way, just exert more pressure. Exactly. They say that ďit is lonely at the topĒ. You have to do whatís right, that is what you believe to be right, because itís right. If someone can point out something that for whatever reason was overlooked or not given full weight that is one thing. But when you cave just to score political points, that doesnít serve the state and hurts it. Itís called not having a backbone. Governors should have a backbone.

7) Ill-tempered or power-hungry. Itís one thing to be a fighter. That is necessary and very good. But itís another to seek conflict or seek to impose oneís will and throw oneís weight around behind the power of a position or office. Over time I believe that voters can generally sort out the fighters from the nasty from the power hungry. Initially you might not be able to always tell, because the speech and actions may sometimes seem similar or the same. But it comes down to true motivation and intent. What is really in a personís heart? Are they doing it to help (build up, including holding others appropriately accountable) or to hurt (tear down others and destroy). And because I believe that ultimately character is in fact destiny, I am sure that I am not the only one who has seen that these motivations of the heart become apparent to others over time.

and lastly for this list at this time

8) Incompetence Ė Maybe this is too strong a word, but some people try really hard and are well intentioned, but just do not possess the necessary skill set to be successful in the magnitude of this position. In sociology they talk about a principle of people being promoted to their level of incompetence (I hope not!), and certainly we all learn and grow and mature, that is true of every single human being that is alive. But being Governor requires a wide set of skills well honed. And if you donít have them, you hurt more than just yourself in the job.

Alex Hammer is an Independent candidate for Governor residing in Bangor. The campaignís website is

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