We the Partnership

Federal employees share why public service is important to them

By Will Butler | April 2, 2021

During last year’s Public Service Recognition Week, we asked federal employees to share their stories about working in government. More than 130 public servants from 45 different agencies answered. The responses shed light on why public servants view their work as important.

Many federal employees believe their work makes a difference. At the Department of Defense, Marcus S. sees himself as helping our nation become “healthier, stronger and sustainable.” Others see their impact in smaller and more specific ways. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Velma B. knows she’s made a difference when she talks with a grateful family for whom she helped provide housing. Likewise, Kendra A. at the Internal Revenue Service knows she has done her job well when she hears the stress in a taxpayer’s voice subside over the course of a phone conversation.

Some employees see public service as a way to bring people closer to their government. Karen S. at the National Science Foundation is passionate about using her skills to figure out “how we communicate with each other, how our leaders communicate with their teams and how our government communicates with the public.” A few respondents said that their work helps change public perceptions about government. Richard G., for instance, believes that his work at the Social Security Administration can help ensure that “the American people have confidence in the skills and character of the public servant.”

Many federal employees are also driven by their specific agency missions. Keith C., for example, shared that his job at the Texas Department of Transportation keeps bridges safe for public use. At the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, Betsy K. shared her work helps strengthen the cybersecurity of government networks.

Some public servants also joined government after witnessing specific social and economic wrongs. Kirtida P. left her executive management job in medical device manufacturing and pharmaceuticals after she observed companies selling harmful medical devices for corporate profit. She now works at the Food and Drug Administration inspecting medical products before they’re sold for public use. Maria L. at the Environmental Protection Agency comes from a family of migrant farmworkers. She sees her work as an environmental scientist as important because she has firsthand knowledge about the disparities among migrant families and small rural communities.

In short, public servants see their work as important for a wide range of reasons—from helping to uphold our democracy to making one person’s day slightly better. But no matter why federal employees find their work important, they have all committed their lives to public service—and that is worth honoring.

Public Service Recognition Week is from May 2-8 this year. Visit our website for simple, low-cost resources that can help you and your organization celebrate, and sign up to receive event updates and materials.

To share your own experiences of working in the federal government and why public service is important to you, take the #IServeBecause survey here.

Will Butler is a former intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.