Nathan Sass

Ron Johnson’s Team of Servant Leaders

In Politics, Ron Johnson on April 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Ron Johnson has developed a reputation as one of the most “unconventional” politicians in the US Senate….possibly in all of Washington D.C.  He had the nerve to break a major unwritten rule and ran for a GOP Senate leadership position during his first year as a Senator.

Freshmen in the Senate are supposed to be quiet, vote with the leadership, and otherwise not make waves.   Johnson refuses to follow those old rules of politics, probably because he isn’t actually a politician, he’s a businessman.  In business, when you are hired to do a job, you actually do it.  You don’t sit quietly at your desk for a year or two until you “earn your stripes”.

Johnson’s unconventional approach to politics is not reserved to himself, or his conduct on the Hill.  He has assembled a team of what I like to refer to as “servant leaders” to comprise his staff in D.C. and in Wisconsin.

Rather than accept conventional wisdom about staffing a US Senator’s office, Johnson chose an entirely unique approach.  While some members of his staff are certainly experienced in politics, and some have very impressive resumes, they also share a humility that is rare in the political world.

This should come as no surprise to anyone that has had the opportunity to spend time with Senator Johnson.  The staff is a direct reflection of Johnson, who is remarkable for his own genuine humility.

I have had the honor of regularly communicating with several members of Senator Johnson’s staff, and I have been truly amazed at their authentic desire to understand and communicate the needs of the constituents to the Senator.  No issue seems to be too small, too irrelevant, too mundane and therefore set aside.

Senator Johnson’s State Director Tony Blando describes the team’s mission as constituent-centered. “One of the most important functions of any Senate office is constituent service. Many Wisconsin residents call our office for help with the Social Security Administration, or Veterans’ Administration, or the State Department, or others. It’s critical that the staff be accessible, helpful, and responsive.”

I have made many attempts in my life to speak with elected officials at many different levels, and with a few exceptions, have had little success.  Emails go unanswered, phone calls go unreturned, and unless my issue is one of the hot button issues of the day it is usually shelved.

I actually called once to try to make an appointment with a Congressman (who I will not name here) to discuss health care reform. (A subject I am a little more familiar with than most.)  I was told, politely, to go to a town hall and try to ask a question there.  The Congressman was too busy to be bothered with my “request for an audience” (or so I felt).  Perhaps my experience may have been different if I were a regular, and large, contributor.

This is what is so remarkable about Ron Johnson and his team.  They never have dismissed me so casually.  In fact, on occasion they have reached out to me just to check in and see if I needed anything (which is downright amazing, really).

What makes that so incredible to me is that I have never given Ron Johnson one thin dime.  Not that I wouldn’t, I just haven’t….and it doesn’t seem to matter to him, or his team.

When Ron Johnson declared as a candidate for Senate, he promised to – among other things – stop doing things the way Washington always has.  He did.  Starting with hiring seemingly the only staff in politics that actually cares about the voters as people, not just as potential votes.

This is a team that all of Wisconsin can rightly be proud of.  They represent the “servant leader” philosophy that is part of who we are in Wisconsin.  While they recognize that they have important roles to play, they are not ever fooled into believing that they are better than anyone else – they are just blessed with an opportunity to serve.

Perhaps that is why they really, honestly, care about the people they deal with.  Lest anyone think this is political, this attitude extends to everyone, not just people that support Senator Johnson’s positions on the issues.  Even those who may not agree with Senator Johnson are treated with the same respect and dignity I have experienced.

It is a sad commentary on the political world when such an attitude of service and respect for the constituents is so rare it merits mentioning.  I doubt highly that was the founder’s intent 200 plus years ago.

We have grown all to accustomed to being largely ignored by those we elect, except for a few months before election day.  We tolerate being marginalized by elected leaders and their teams, who tend to devote their attention to more “important” people – usually the same people who write them checks.

In this way especially I believe Ron Johnson, and more importantly his support team, embodies the essence of the founder’s intent.  They are in the truest sense citizen leaders who do not see themselves as above anyone else.

Wisconsin should be proud of the man they elected in 2010, and even prouder of the people he chose to work “for” him and to serve us, the people.

  1. Yea, I voted for Johnson too. But then I made the mistake of challenging his stupid vote against the post office. Oh well.


    21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 – Vote Rejected (51-46, 3 Not Voting)

    This postal overhaul bill did not receive the necessary 60 votes to proceed to debate. The bill would allow the Postal Service to recoup around $11 billion in overpayments to a retirement account and use that money to provide financial incentives to about 100,000 employees to retire, as well as delay the plan to end Saturday delivery for two years.

    Sen. Herb Kohl voted YES……send e-mail or see bio
    Sen. Ron Johnson voted NO……send e-mail or see bio

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