When the Nevada Legislature adopted our Ethics in Government Laws in 1977, it declared a foundational principal of public policy — that a public office is a public trust to be held solely for the benefit of the people. Accordingly, the Legislature adopted ethics laws designed to preserve our trust in government and in the public officers and employees who make decisions for us.
Those laws help to ensure that our leaders won’t take advantage of their positions of authority for their own private benefit, such as unfairly securing gifts, favors, opportunities, privileges or compensation to themselves. That’s because when they do those things, they violate our trust in them and in the institution that they serve. Our trust is at the heart of it all.
But good government requires commitments from every member of the community, not just our government leaders. Community membership is voluntary. We each made a personal choice to live in Boulder City with knowledge that the privilege of doing so carries with it certain expectations, including how we behave. The decision to join our community triggered both access to its benefits and the responsibility to live up to those expectations, including honoring shared values and commitments to one another.
Just like trust is at the heart of the ethics laws governing our leaders, it’s also central to our own actions as citizens. It’s impossible to build a strong, unified and cohesive community without trust. All the ethics laws in the world won’t help us if we can’t have faith in and rely on one another’s honesty, integrity, virtues and strengths. High trust always leads to greater effectiveness in achieving our goals.
But trust is at an all-time low in our society, as surveys regularly confirm. People are losing trust in government, in the police, in the media and in our education systems. And that lack of trust makes us feel excluded, defenseless, helpless, vulnerable and disenfranchised.
Our degree of trust is highly correlated to our sense of belonging. Those who have high trust feel like they belong and are valued, which in turn strengthens our community. Those who have low trust feel alone and undervalued, which weakens our community.
So, in order to build a stronger community, we need to recognize the need for trust and do everything in our power to foster it. What can you and I do individually to build greater trust within our community? Most importantly, we can each make a more intentional and concerted effort to avoid trust-destroying behaviors and replace them with better trust-building alternatives.
For instance, instead of belittling, demeaning or mocking those with whom we disagree, we can intentionally choose to carefully listen to and try to understand them. Rather than bully, intimidate, harass or seek to embarrass others, we can choose to engage in respectful dialogue and use our gentle powers of persuasion. And when we’re tempted to put our own egos and selfish desires above the greater good of our community, we can make a conscious decision to do just the opposite by subordinating our selfishness to the best interests of the entire community.
Rather than following modern trends to use lies and misinformation to discredit others or promote our own agendas, we can make a deliberate choice to avoid making the issues personal and instead focus on the merits of the decision at hand. Rather than planting seeds of doubt on social media, retaliating with clever tweets or TikTok videos, or responding with sarcastic memes, we can take the high road by acknowledging common ground and respectfully pointing out differences of opinion.
As you can see, trust is a choice. So, choose to look for the good in others. Give them every benefit of the doubt. Impute the best possible motives to them. Forgive quickly and freely when offended. Don’t look for reasons to attack and destroy. In summary, employ the Golden Rule by trusting others as you would have others trust you.
Personal integrity also goes a long way toward increasing community trust. Your choice to uphold community standards not only strengthens the integrity of the system but also gives others more courage to do the same. Having personal integrity means doing what’s right and living up to our community standards even when nobody is looking. It means being true to yourself and others even if the chances of being caught are slim. It means having each other’s backs, upholding one another’s good names and reputation, and never doing anything that would let each other down.
So whether you’re new to Boulder City or have been here for years, I hope you’ll continually ask yourself the question, “What can I do today to strengthen Boulder City by building a community of trust?” Then go and do trustworthy things, even when nobody else is watching.
I’m so thankful to each of you for everything you do to make Boulder City the community I love and trust most. For that, I’ll forever be in your debt.
The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.
Rod Woodbury has resided in Boulder City for more than 40 years and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law. He served on the City Council from 2011- 2019, including four years as mayor.