Accepting the Call

Accepting the Call

Colbians choose government as the best route to public service

By Douglas Rooks '76 | Photos by Fred Field


 
There is no more public position in the public sector than that of politician. Vilified, often the butt of jokes, elected officials still are the cornerstone of democracy. Jokes aside, they work long hours for little pay—and sometimes none at all. Yet they continue to run for office and, if elected, to serve the voters, taking positions that don't always make them popular with their constituents.
In the Massachusetts Legislature he has been an outspoken voice for gun control and has opposed a constitutional amendment that would overturn the state Supreme Judicial Court's legalization of gay marriage. In September, that amendment was defeated at a state convention. The lesson from his mentors? "Take a principled stand, and do not waver,— Linsky said.

First elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1999 after the incumbent was made a judge, David Linsky '79, a Democrat, has been returned to office three times. After law school he became an assistant district attorney for Middlesex County. Like many alumni in government, he had early encouragement, playing the role of Senator Birch Bayh in a model-Senate Jan Plan with Maisel at Colby and going on to intern in the office of Massachusetts Congressman Robert Drinan, a Catholic priest who left office on orders of the Vatican.

Linsky's reasons for running for office combine a strong sense of community—he lives in Natick, where he grew up—and a longstanding interest in politics. "It was clear from an early age that I wanted to be involved in government at some level,— he said.

In the Massachusetts Legislature he has been an outspoken voice for gun control and has opposed a constitutional amendment that would overturn the state Supreme Judicial Court's legalization of gay marriage. In September, that amendment was defeated at a state convention. The lesson from his mentors? "Take a principled stand, and do not waver,— he said.

Sometimes that principled stand takes unexpected twists.

Gail Chase '74 served two terms in the Maine Legislature, from 1992 to 1996, representing a district of rural towns near Waterville. Chase lost a bid for a third term but then was elected by the Legislature to the post of state auditor. Her relatively obscure office became the focus of intensive news coverage when Chase reported that millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds could not be accounted for. Her reports ultimately led to significant changes in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, but Chase said she never considered the political consequences.

In fact she ran initially only because in Maine "politics is homegrown and politicians are accessible.— Her rewards were simple, including the pleasure she got when voters talked to her as though she were part of their families.

Not all those who win elective office decide to stay there. Christine Burke '89, P'06, is a one-time nurse and a non-traditional Colby student who worked at the College health center while pursuing her degree. She lost a race for the Maine Legislature, then, much to her own surprise, agreed to run again in 1988. She defeated the same opponent, a local dairy farmer. "The first time, I didn't really know what I was doing,— she said.

In the second race, she pursued multiple contacts with each voter ("I knew every sportsman and senior citizen in the district—), yet she served only a single term before deciding to go to law school. "My family told me I could go to law school, be a mom, work part-time, and serve in the Legislature. I said, 'Right.'— After earning her law degree, she found herself back in Augusta running a consulting firm and lobbying at the Legislature for a variety of clients. Good representation by lobbyists, she said, is vital to the democratic process. "This is another way to contribute.—

 
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