Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Managing the Madness of the Political Season

By: | April 18, 2016

Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the director of risk and safety — city safety and compliance officer for a municipality in Upstate New York and is a director at large and delegate for the government and public sector division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected].

A story I often tell at PRIMA Institute is of a hot summer day in the heat of a political campaign season. Tasked with assisting security for the event, I helped with balloons, ice cream, crowds and the arrival of a “distinguished” politician.

Well, the heat melted the ice cream and the candidate was late, making for a tiresome, disappointing event. As the event closed, the candidate got into his big black SUV with tinted windows and proceeded to exit the public park.

In one pristine moment on that fine summer day, universes collided — school children arrived for a history lesson, the candidate’s posse turned on their vehicle engines and a flock of baby ducks, led by their parents, decided to cross the road.

As the SUV revved its engine in front of the school children — attempting a speedy exit — I did the only thing any sensible risk manager would do … I stood between the ducks and the SUV as a fellow employee shooed the ducks along.

He eventually revved his “engine” a little too loudly and too frequently — while the ducks still reside in the park generations later.

I found out later the politico’s “handler” called my boss and demanded I be fired.

Thankfully, my boss called me and asked me my side of the story and sided with the ducks. We often joke amongst ourselves when that individual’s name comes up that arrogance breeds contempt.

We also take solace that while the candidate won the race, he eventually revved his “engine” a little too loudly and too frequently — while the ducks still reside in the park generations later.

Let’s talk about those baby ducks and the common sense of any candidate for office and the reality of governance of “for the people, by the people” and a few basis rules of survival.

Rhetoric may sell headlines, but it doesn’t make for credibility in public service. The internet, as a vast trove of snippet storage, never lets anyone forget a misstep, a slip of a phrase or an unkept promise.

Risk professionals work with the community and law enforcement to provide opportunities for discussion and deal with the fallout of overzealous patrons in the search for democracy.

As public risk professionals manage the madness that descends upon their communities and the disruption it brings to daily governance, they’ll question their sanity, their patience and the limitations of providing the opportunity for free speech within a fixed budget.

The moral of the duck flock, you ask?

It’s about distinguishing between the pressures of singular political aspirations versus the patient reality of the community one serves. Sometimes, the smallest of our actions in that one split second of each of our judgments sets the standards of who we as a community should all aspire to be.

Marilyn Rivers’ views are her own and don’t represent the City of Saratoga Springs.

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