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Nicolais: Let’s thank the anonymous public servants who work with quiet dignity

The public impeachment hearings highlighted several exceptional career public servants, something Colorado has in spades

Democrat or Republican, it’s difficult to argue that the career public servants who testified during the impeachment proceedings didn’t acquit themselves exceptionally well.

I can’t help but hope that Coloradans will recognize the same quiet excellence they receive from many career public servants here in our own state.

For the past two weeks, congressional witnesses have captivated the American public.

Mario Nicolais

Most of the witnesses served throughout their careers almost invisible to everyday citizens. Sure, most were highly respected in their field and played important roles in forming and implementing the policy of our country, but they certainly weren’t household names.

But when the spotlight came on, they didn’t shrink from it. To the contrary, the bright lights of a national audience only served to highlight how intelligent, hard-working and thoughtful these women and men are in service to our country.

For me the most notable exception was Gordon Sondland who came off as a self-aggrandizing braggart and overall boob, even if his testimony may be been the most factually damning.

Tellingly, he is not a career public servant but rather the recipient of his own quid-pro-quo. Sondland’s appointment came after he donated $1 million to President Trump’s election efforts.

In contrast, witnesses like William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch, David Holmes and, my personal favorite, Fiona Hill, displayed depth of knowledge, dedication to purpose and understated resolve. As a show of respect, I’d use their official titles but would run out of room too quickly.

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Maybe evident, the loyalty they displayed to protect other people – such as their universal condemnation of attacks against Yovanovitch and Hill’s defense of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman – was only eclipsed by their loyalty to our country.

Not only did they listen to the questions, or often statements-disguised-as-questions, from congressional members and answer with aplomb, but their quiet dignity regularly upstaged the partisan bickering of those elected officials on the dais.

And that’s what reminded me of the many people who I’ve seen in service to our state.

Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with people in many Colorado offices. Out of college, I worked in the State Treasurer’s Office.

As an attorney, I’ve regularly interacted with both the offices of the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. And its almost impossible to live in Colorado without interaction between the Governor’s Office or the state agencies he oversees.

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In nearly 20 years, I can’t remember a truly awful interaction with anyone in any of these offices. But there are countless examples of dedicated employees working to make the state better.

For example, there is a woman who works in the Office of Administrative Courts and whom I first met in 2001 when I worked there as a docket clerk.

Because of the work I’ve done since, both as an attorney and in the healthcare industry, I’ve continued to have regular interactions with her. Quiet and courteous, she is an expert in the efficient service she provides. 

And because she does her job so well, I’d venture that she’d be most notable to people if she weren’t there; the office could literally grind to crawl.

To put an even finer tip on my point, by not using her name or position, my description could apply equally to several different women working in that office. And but for the gender identifier, several men as well.

In our current world and political environment, it’s all too common to paint with a wide brush and denounce government workers.

That’s an urge that should be resisted. Many, many people working in government offices do so with a sense of purpose and dedication that deserve thanks rather than scorn.

We didn’t need impeachment proceedings to know the eventual outcome; the Democratic House will impeach President Trump and the Republican Senate will acquit him. But maybe we needed the hearings for another purpose, to remind ourselves of all the anonymous women and men working hard for our interests every day.


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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