Ethics and politics: you can have both at the same time | Council Corner

By Randy Lord, Mukilteo City Council President | Aug 27, 2014

Recent events at the national level (our president being sued by the House of Representatives), the state level (partisan politics creating a stalemate over transportation and education issues); and even at our local level (our mayor hires her political ally and mentor) has raised an interesting discussion about ethics, with plenty of people weighing in.

I was observing this from the sidelines, but when I heard the comments of "Get used to it, it's politics," and "They're all like that," I felt it important to provide my perspective.

I believe there's a great opportunity for all of us to have greater expectations for (and demand) better behaviors of our elected officials. As the headline of this column states, I work very hard to maintain a high ethical standard in my dealings with people, both inside and outside the political arena.

I consider my small role on the City Council as an extension of my efforts to help my community; no different than when I was a soccer coach, field-trip chaperone or band dad.

The only difference is that we are serving a different set of customers with a different set of needs. Regardless of the venue, we all have a keen sense of fairness and treating each other equally; whether we are 8-year-old kids or seasoned adults.

Over my life, I've had many instances where I had to practice what I preached; where I had to make a fair and ethical decision, even at the expense of upsetting my friends and family.

In one case, I had to disqualify my daughter's best friend at a ski race for missing a gate (much to my daughter's anger and embarrassment), and in another I had to cut one of my favorite soccer players from the higher level select team (that was a sad and awkward time for our families).

In both cases, I could have made the easy call, but I kept asking myself if it was fair for all the other skiers who worked hard to hit every gate, or for the other qualified soccer player who would not have made the team.

What message would I send if people see that I say one thing about fairness, but end up doing another thing instead?

In the political world, I see different motives of some of the elected officials; best described by the differences between the words “public servant” and “politician.''

Even though it isn't this simplistic, for this discussion, my simple description of the difference is that the public servant works to meet and serve the needs of his or her constituents, while a politician works to meet and serve his or her own needs (which is to continue to be re-elected to the next level or term).

As a public servant, I weigh decisions as to what I believe is best for the city, not whether it will lose or gain votes for me in the next election. I have resolved to do my best for the citizens.

If they like it, they'll ask me back. If they don't, then my wife will be delighted to have me around more often!

If we continue to be complacent about questionable activities in our elected officials (even if it is legal), then we deserve the government we get.

It is our duty to continue to be vigilant, to demand the higher standards of fairness, openness and, above all, ethics.

We must remember that we expect people to do the right thing, and if it is at a higher standard than the legal thing, then we must work hard to change the law, such that the higher standard is the law.

It's up to all of us to participate in our government and, if necessary, hold us accountable for our actions in the next election.

Randy Lord is president of the Mukilteo City Council. He has been a councilmember since 2006.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Terry Preshaw | Aug 27, 2014 15:44


I appreciate Council President Lord for voicing what many of us have been thinking and feeling. Folks in Mukilteo have the expectation that its elected officials will behave in a manner that reflects the highest ethical standards.

Unethical political behavior is rarely forgotten particularly on a local level in a small town such as ours. I imagine it lingering like an ever-present shadow, tainting the shadow-maker forevermore. Once credibility and integrity are sullied, subsequent good works can not undo the damage.

Voters! Are you prepared to practice accountability at the polls?

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