It's probably never been more difficult to serve in public office, to serve under the scrutiny and criticism of constituents who use both traditional and social media, to serve within the constraints of tighter budgets and larger debts, to serve within an era grown jaded with cynicism and complaint.
And yet this year, thousands of people in Ontario will stand for election within their communities to seek a position on their municipal council. In putting their name forward, they place their reputation and motive before the altar of public inspection.
The vast majority will seek public service from the purest of intentions. They desire better roads, better services and more efficient use of public funds.
Most want to help make their communities better. And they believe they have the skill and the insight to help in that transformation.
They think they can make a difference.
Perhaps their greatest obstacle is the public's expectation, which has now been made lower thanks to people like Rob Ford and Joe Fontana. Through his admitted drug and alcohol use and his bizarre public comments, Toronto's mayor has brought disrespect to his office, and to the city and people he was sworn to represent. Although not charged by police, Ford's public presence continues to distract and embarrass.
Fontana resigned as London's mayor last month and was this week sentenced to house arrest for doctoring a $1,700 expense claim dating to 2005 when he was a Liberal MP and Cabinet minister. As with Ford, Fontana has brought shame to his city and its citizens.
The two remain exceptions in the arena of public life, and yet their conduct, however noble and full of grand purpose at the beginning, has increasingly and unfairly become the expectation to which all elected officials are measured.
The citizenry deserves better and, in fact, mostly receives a reasonable and reputable service from those who hold elected office. These are people who serve with quiet purpose, mindful of the trust they've been given, and conscious of the ideals they've sworn to uphold.
For every Rob Ford in office, there are thousands who serve with distinction.
The spotlight rarely shines on these people, but it is their work and effort that best exemplifies the gold standard of public service.