Competence and elected officials

It appears that we are already in the 2020 Presidential election campaign mode. What role does the candidates’ competence and likeability play in this election dynamic? Time will tell. But, in my view, they are key. Likeability is a treasure, and unquestionable competence is essential. In an earlier column I addressed the “likeability” factor. In this piece, I will deal primarily with the concept of competence. Competency, in any field of endeavor, is a highly desirable quality in this world of ours.

When one is in need of a surgeon to perform a surgical procedure, the competency of the surgeon is profoundly essential. And a similar degree of importance is present, when one is in need of a dentist, a pharmacist or other health care providers. And, when one is a passenger in an aircraft, the competency of the pilot and crew is uppermost in one’s mind. Further, when one is engaging the services of an electrician, a plumber, or a carpenter… their competency is likewise highly valued. And from a military standpoint, the competency of the military leadership is highly essential when facing a critically strategic military operation. We then ask, what about the competency of those in public service including those representing us at the local, state and federal level?

Truly, honest competency is of primary concern in all walks of life. Would anyone ever intentionally select an incompetent person to be their surgeon, pilot, electrician, local mayor and a member of Congress or President of the United States? To be sure, competency is of prime significance and highly essential in almost every aspect life’s situations. And with competency goes hard work and trusting dedication.

As I see it, the meaning of competence is that one is able to do a job (be it farming, teaching, sales, engineering or whatever) thoroughly; meeting the specific requirements of the situation is a requirement. A competent person is one who recognizes the varied aspects of the specific role including the hazards and uncertainties associated with a particular task. A competent person has the ability to mitigate those hazards and fulfill the requirements of the task. Choosing a competent individual should not be chosen lightly. For example, to put it simply, if work is to be performed on scaffolding, the competent person must be knowledgeable about the demands of the job, including the scaffolding hazards, and be able to meet the requirements of the task with skill and expert efficiency.

Competence possesses the appropriate skills and expert knowledge that allows one to fulfill the requirements of the task. It includes the ability to apply prior experience…in whatever domain…to new situations with efficient effectiveness. One’s competency usually increases over time as one acquires more information and ability through inquiry, observation, hard work, and participation. When one feels competent, one can greet new situations with calmness, authority and confidence. And, as an added desirable corollary, one’s competency may very well inspire others to seek competency in their own endeavors.

For sure, in public service, sincere dedication, hard work, and competency in the specific area of service far exceeds “idle deceptive sweet talk” made to trusting, hopeful and dependent constituents. Knowingly making false promises in order to achieve self-centered egocentric self-serving aggrandizement is, indeed, the height of cruel and insensitive hypocrisy. The American voter is not and will not be gullible. The American public is eager for and will accept no less than trusting honesty, absolute sincerity and dedicated, unquestionable competency! And that is how I see it from this perspective.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and a Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at SUNY Fredonia.

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