Accepting the Call

Accepting the Call

Colbians choose government as the best route to public service

By Douglas Rooks '76 | Photos by Fred Field


 
For every elected official, statistics say, at least a dozen people are working behind the scenes. One of them is Shawn Jenkins '93, a government major who found that opportunities for advancement come more quickly in the public sector than in the private.
"This is one function that's not translatable to the private sector,— Jenkins said. "It isn't the easiest job to do, but it's essential.—

After serving as an intern to a Republican state senator in Massachusetts, Jenkins found it relatively easy to move into state government, quickly being promoted to the executive office of the Department of Public Safety. Before long he was the budget officer overseeing a billion dollars in state spending on police, corrections, and the parole system. It wasn't his financial background that helped him as much as his knowledge of public safety issues and his ability to work with leaders of the agencies involved, he said. "I wouldn't have predicted that this is what I'd be doing, but it was great experience,— he said, adding, "It's not for someone who wants to work nine to five.—

Jenkins was recently appointed by Governor Mitt Romney to the Sex Offender Registry Board, an agency that takes on one of contemporary government's toughest problems: the dissemination of information relating to convicted sex offenders living and working in Massachusetts.

"This isn't a job likely to make good conversation at dinner parties,— he said, but he finds his work—reports recommending classification levels of offenders—satisfying. Massachusetts, which has 8,500 registered sex offenders, also has one of the most comprehensive notification and monitoring systems in the country.

"This is one function that's not translatable to the private sector,— Jenkins said. "It isn't the easiest job to do, but it's essential.—

As is the role of Michael Cantara '75, Maine's public safety commissioner.

The first in his family to attend college, Cantara went on to law school and set up a small practice in his native Biddeford, south of Portland. But early on he was attracted to public service. He ran for city office, losing a close race, but then winning the mayor's seat five years later. When the opportunity to run for district attorney came up, Cantara entered the race and won. He served 12 years, the longest tenure for a D.A. in York County, until being named commissioner of the Department of Public Safety by Governor John Baldacci in 2003.

Cantara's department, which includes state police, emergency medical services, motor vehicle inspections, and a new gambling control board, has one of the most varied agendas in state government. Under Cantara, the department is building the capacity to handle statewide emergency dispatch services. He appears unfazed by the responsibility. "I can't tell you what every person in this building thinks of my leadership,— he said, "but I do know that we're trying to improve services and increase accountability for all we do for the public.—

 
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