Draining the swamp

Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Draining the swamp is one of the popular sayings that have accompanied the new president to Washington. It wasn’t an original thought with him, but took on a life of its own at his rallies and the shouting of “Drain the Swamp” became a crowd favorite.

As he has been in Washington for just a few weeks, I would think he has been surprised at the size and strength of the swamp. What is the meaning of the swamp? It is the entrenched bureaucracies that have grown to gargantuan and unmanageable sizes.

I think I ran into a swamp one time. I was appointed the Director of Sales at a resort in Florida. I inherited a small staff and many had been there for years. It was not a very efficient staff and most were simply going through the motions. They came in late and left early. They didn’t search for new business and relied on rebooking their current accounts. Not a good recipe for growth.

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The General Manager of the resort spoke to me about the Sales office and said that he did not think they were working very hard and wanted something to be done. I had full authority to crack the whip and he would back me up. He was telling me to drain the swamp and I was naïve enough to think that I could do that.

If the president thinks he is going to turn the ship of Washington around with a few tweets and words, he is just as naïve as I was as a fledgling Director of Sales. I do not think the president is naïve, but I also do not believe that he can drain the swamp or clean up the mess all by himself.

Cleaning up a swamp takes a lot of heart and I am not sure that the American people have a big heart anymore. We want the swamp drained so long as it’s not “my” swamp.

In my mini-swamp, I hit the ground running. I knew what a sales staff should be doing because I had worked in a strong and aggressive staff at Opryland Hotel.

I brought the bureaucracy that was the sales staff in and told them I would accept nothing but their best efforts. I expected them to earn the good salaries they were being paid. The looks on their faces were not encouraging. After a few days, nothing had changed. They were testing the drainer of the swamp.

I went to the Human Resources office and told them that I was going to be very firm with the staff and might even make them angry. Would I have their support?

“It’s about time. Yes,” they said.

I laid down the law to the sales staff and demanded a letter from each explaining their intentions. The lead sales person who had been there over twenty years came to my office. She was mad and looked at me and said, “I was here before you got here and I will be here when you leave.”

I reported her rebellious attitude to the General Manager and the Human Resources officer. They both told me to forget it. We couldn’t risk losing her. Long story short. The swamp won!

What’s the point? We do have a swamp or mess in our federal government. It needs to be drained, but the draining of the swamp will take much effort and support. The current administration may want to make the effort, but I’m not sure they have the support of the American people. Without that, the swamp wins.