This is a bit weird. I find myself in the position of having to defend politicians. Well, not all of them, just the good ones.
The subject came up recently about my precocious great-grandson Cameron Charles Yarbrough, who is 7, going on 37. Cameron never meets a stranger, acts more adult than many adults and has charisma to burn.
Someone remarked that he was a natural politician, which brought the usual “Hopefully, he’ll grow out of it” and “He has too much integrity” and the usual putdowns of those in politics.
Much of the criticism of politics and politicians is spot-on, particularly as it relates to Washington, where Potomac Fever is alive and well and has prostituted many a well-meaning soul sent there to save the world (and reduce our taxes) and who have ended up becoming legends in their own minds. They are a subject for another day.
And then there are the mindless ideologues in our legislature who pay more heed to the desires of special interest groups than to their constituents. These people would lick the bark off a tree if told to do so by nefarious groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. They, too, are a subject for another day.
But there are exceptions to the rule, and two of those exceptions are state senators whom I had the pleasure to get to know and to serve with on the governor’s Education Reform Commission.
One, Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Cobb, is chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, the go-to committee for public education issues, among other things. The other is Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
What sets these two men apart from many in the political arena is that neither seems interested in running for higher office and, thus, anxious to get their mugs on the nightly news hoping to dazzle you with their pontifications.
Neither senator, I suspect, has to be doing this at all. Both are senior citizen status, with successful business backgrounds — Tippins a pipeline contractor and Hill a retired grocer.
Tippins came to the state Senate in 2010 after the incumbent in that district got too big for his britches and thought he was more important than did the voters. Previously, Tippins had served 12 years on the Cobb County Board of Education, including three as chairman.
I would dare say he knows as much about public education issues as anyone in the legislature and has been a good buffer to the ideological bark lickers who seem intent on dismantling public education the first chance they get.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hill, now in his 13th term, has helped the state of Georgia maintain a triple-A bond rating from the national rating agencies. This while representing a widespread senatorial district that covers Bulloch, Candler and Effingham counties, as well as parts of Emanuel, Evans and Tattnall counties. He even managed to show up at the Effingham County Chamber’s annual meeting recently to sit through the ramblings of a modest and much-beloved columnist and laughed in all the right places.
Hill and Tippins were a part of the commission’s Funding Committee, as was I. It was instructive to watch them work. Our role was to develop a new vehicle for funding public education that would replace the 30-year-old Quality Basic Education Act. It was like drinking from a firehose. A lot of information to digest and extremely tight deadlines in which to do it.
Yet, not even the minutest detail got by Tippins without some justification for its inclusion by the commission’s staff. Hill sat quietly and said little. But when he did, everybody listened and usually agreed because his comments were right on the mark.
Both men will return to the legislature in January because neither had primary opposition. Both will be instrumental in what happens to the recommendations of the Education Reform Commission. Their wisdom and political gravitas will be needed because a lot of the ideologues are mad at the governor for reasons having nothing to do with public education and will likely try to take it out on our schools.
So, before we cast stones at all politicians, we would do well to remember that most are good people trying to do good things. Hill and Tippins are two of them.
I would suggest the ideological bark lickers in the legislature follow their example. Maybe then we would like all politicians better.