The difference between people and government

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

The actions that have been the talk of the town recently concerning the local government must be put into perspective related to individual and the abstract of government.

This perspective is perhaps best defined by the people who perform what most of us see as examples of &uot;local government.&uot;

A good example of such a person is Eric Nielsen, the director of the Public Works Department and a real star in our local government.

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We all have contact every week with someone from public works, due to the many services that we count upon from this service oriented arm of our local government.

This may be from the streets they fix that we drive upon, to the refuse that they pick up for us and dispose of every week.

Clearly without them, our streets would be bumpy and we’d be smothered in trash.

This department and especially its director, exemplify what truly makes the city of Suffolk the community that we all find a wonderful place to live in and call home.

I have had the opportunity to get to know Eric over the last few years due to his duties as the director of Aviation Facilities at our Executive Airport on Route 13, one of the many hats that he wears.

As an active user with a keen interest in all aspects of our local airport due to my flying activities as a pilot and operator of one of the few airport businesses in town, my path has crossed Eric’s on several occasions.

I have had the pleasant opportunity to get to know him and count him as an honest and hardworking example of how local government can and should work.

While I must admit that I have not always agreed with Eric about everything to do with the city of Suffolk, I have found his intentions to be both instructive and honest.

Eric is one of the hardest working people I have ever met and he always seems to have a good outlook toward his duties, but more importantly he wants to honestly do the very best for the people of Suffolk.

This bend has been recently seen in his tireless efforts to change the way our community handles the maintenance of roads and streets in the area of our city known as the &uot;Old Nansemond County,&uot; now maintained by VDOT.

I must admit that I have had and still have, many concerns about this proposal and how it may work for all of us, but if anyone can do a good job of bringing this daunting task to a good outcome, it is Eric.

The folks at VDOT have done a good job in the past, but Eric has convinced the city council that he can do a better job, due to millions more available to the city under the funding formula available.

He and others in his department have worked hard to insure that the practical details to be implemented in this complex proposal works as efficiently and flawlessly as possible.

To assist in this huge undertaking he has a staff of hardworking people that a good manager surrounds himself with to get the job done and time will tell if this is a good idea or it is subverted to just another political dead-end.

As the details of this multi-million dollar effort is worked out like a master silver-smith crafting a fine piece of silver in grandmother tea set, Eric is working hard to insure that Suffolk gets the most it can from the available opportunities.

It’s unknown if his faith in this plan will lead to the promised potential described, but it can’t be said that it failed due to his lack of effort, good faith, and hard-work.

This hard work was most evident when he held the Whaleyville meetings to explain why this was a good deal.

He did not have many supporters in the audience, but it was apparent that they did not sway his belief that it was a good idea.

Another interesting project that Eric is just starting to take on is storm-water management.

While this effort will most likely demand a few dollars a month more in fees from each property owner to take care of, keep in mind that it will be done professionally and with your best interests in mind, by Eric and his merry band of elves that makes Suffolk the great community we all enjoy so much.

While I pondered this week’s article and the many I have written over the last year’s time, I thought that it was important to separate out the difference between the process and the individual.

The tension suffered by the citizen when encountering the mindless menace known as his local government, can be comforted by the knowledge that there are genuinely good people behind the scenes like Eric Nielsen taking care of the services we all count on in a thriving community.

While some aspects of our local government raises concerns almost everyday, it is comforting to know that we do have our friends at public works picking up our garbage, cleaning our streets, and just taking care of what we need.

So when you are most aggravated by what the local cohort at city hall has done, keep in perspective that like most things in life you get the good and bad in manageable doses.

Eric Nielsen is a good example of why our local government is a keeper over-all, even if we do need to take a deep breath some of the time, over some of the more difficult issues.

It should also be noted that there are many other examples available, but with the limited space the editor allows me, Eric is the one I know the best.

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at