For what seems like two full years out of every four, politics dominates the media—speeches and rhetoric, profiles and promises.
Understandably, those pursuing the highest offices in the land receive the vast majority of the attention.
However, no single elected official runs our nation. Yes, “it takes a village” to preside over the countless villages, towns, cities and municipalities throughout our nation.
But there are innumerable unsung heroes at the local and regional level—veritable fixtures in our assorted home towns who, without fanfare, ultimately serve as the backbone of our government.
By her own admission, Collier County District 1 Commissioner Donna Fiala is just one of many public servants whose commitment is to people first and politics second.
Of course, Fiala also freely admits, “I don’t need this job—I want this job.”
Which raises the question: whether your bread and butter comes from the business community or the political arena, how many of us are truly “ruled” by those who “want” their job?
Fiala was first elected to her current post in 2000. Her long-term success may well be her accessibility to her constituency; however, it’s her visibility that impresses the most.
It is often said: if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. In Fiala’s case, “walking the walk” has become her claim to fame.
In brief, Donna Fiala is everywhere.
Not one to hide behind impersonal, technology-driven communication, Fiala pursues the kind of schedule that would make a lesser man or woman crumble.
From ribbon cuttings to grand openings, from five different volunteer board positions to two Kiwanis Club memberships, Fiala hasarguably achieved sustainability and widespread popularity by setting a goal early in her first term and sticking to it: “You have to go where the people are.”
And she goes and goes—much like a metaphorical Energizer Bunny of public service.
According to Fiala, “It’s essential to participate in events that are important to the community—to understand how individuals interpret various issues and what is truly meaningful to the people you serve.”
Recently re-elected to a fourth term with over 80% of the vote, Fiala lives in the same home she purchased 39 years ago when she first moved to Collier County. A home which, coincidentally, sits squarely inside the district she represents.
A self-described “accidental politician,” Fiala explains, “At the time I first got involved, the community I lived in was sadly overlooked as compared to the rest of the county. It may sound naïve now, but I just wanted to make a difference.”
Considering one’s success in business is often inextricably linked to his or her ability to manage office politics, exercise diplomacy and gain the trust of colleagues and the public, Fiala and those who selflessly serve without the aforementioned fanfare ultimately become an inspiration to all of us.
Whether or not you agree with Donna Fiala’s politics, it’s difficult to argue with her process. In the political arena or the business world, it always helps to go where the people are.
Speaker, writer and “professional storyteller” Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the President of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, FL. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or 239-304-9611.