Politicians, Public Servants, and Political Appointees

Politician, Public Servants, political appointee? Aren’t those all basically the same thing?

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I can make a little more sense of the information I comb through if I have a better understanding of where the information is coming from as well as the primary motives of the person sharing it.  I believe that’s especially helpful with the current impeachment inquiry.

Politicians are likely the most familiar, so let’s start with them. Politicians are the ones we directly vote into office. They use campaigns of slogans, printed material, billboards, yard signs and so on to convince us to vote for them. Once in office, they’re the ones who are supposed to listen to us. Like, if we have a grievance, opinion, or demand regarding something going on in our community or wherever, we take those comments to our elected politicians. It might be the mayor listening to our ideas about business development. Maybe it’s our federal senator receiving thanks for voting for or against something. At the end of the day, politicians are the ones who care what voters think. Usually they at least make some show of it. And speaking of show, politicians are very much concerned with the show they put on, whether it’s more along the lines of reality TV or total theatrics. They want to make sure they look good and often adjust the lighting and makeup just to make sure. Politicians are known for big toothy grins, a thumbs up, and lots of promises. 

Now, have you got that politician in your mind? Smiling, promising, ready to please?

A public servant is a little different.

Public servants are paid to keep things functioning and in line with laws and procedures. While they may care about how long that pothole has been there, they have to make sure it’s gone through the right process and paperwork (with all the right signatures) before it can be fixed. They keep up-to-date with laws, regulations, directives, guidance, procedures, and anything else official sounding. Why? That’s what we pay them to do. We need people to make sure the government is running smoothly and that everything is accounted for.

Public Servants don’t change unless they’re doing a bad job. Like, a really bad job. Regardless of which president, vice president, or congressperson is in office, the public servants are always around to keep the government going. Jobs are usually not at stake if voters are unhappy.

Before moving on to the next group of people running the government, I want to emphasize here that public servants are forbidden by law to get involved in politics. People running our government are not allowed to run for office themselves, publicly endorse candidates or anything of the sort. Doing things of that nature puts them at risk of losing their job. For more information about the law dictating what employees of the government can and cannot do, see the Hatch Act of 1939, officially entitled An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities.

The last category of people working in the government that we need to discuss is political appointees. A political appointee is someone that is picked by an elected official. Some of these politically appointed positions also require a congressional hearing and a favorable vote from the Senate. These political appointees are supposed to keep all of the various departments and agencies of the government in line with certain political goals and agendas. Appointments made by the President of the United States include US ambassadors, executive branch officers, and other high level officials. Justices on the Supreme Court, Cabinet Secretaries, and a number of federal leadership positions require approval from the Senate. Political appointees may change when we have a change in presidential leadership. Justices on the Supreme Court are exceptions, since their appointment is for life.

As we continue to watch events unfold and facts come to light, it helps to remember the various roles and obligations of the people providing them.


  1. What a timely post ! I admit I was confused by all the nomenclature and wasn’t sure who was who and what was what.

    The definitions you provided, Emily, has helped to clear up, not only my current confusion, but also much of the confusion I’ve felt over the years as I dealt with bureaucrats and couldn’t understand why they behaved so callously and regimentedly (is that a word ?). Whew ! Now it’s all clear ! They were doing their job of following all the laws and rules and policies.

    Now, as I go to my city Council meetings, I will carry with me the definition that these people work for me, the voter. That will help me feel more empowered to approach them and discuss any issue or problem in my neighborhood.

    Thank you, Emily !!

    Liked by 1 person

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