Our 10 Favorite Public Servants from Pop Culture

Heroes and villains get all the press coverage, but it is the humble public servant, patiently toiling away at paperwork, tackling administrative duties, and ferociously juggling the minutiae most of us never see that keep our communities (both real and fictional) running smoothly. Public servants actually represent a noble tradition in popular culture, stretching all the way back to the clay tablets that recorded The Epic of Gilgamesh four thousand years ago, when the hairy man-beast of Enkidu accepted his first job as a security guard in the public sector.

While in the real world we salute the public servants that put their nose to the grindstone making our communities tick, we thought it would be fun to take a look at our top 10 public servants from popular culture:


Our 10 Favorite Public Servants from Pop Culture
1. Leslie Knope – (city councilwoman) Parks and Recreation

The city of Pawnee is this generation’s Mayberry—an innocent place of refuge in a cruel world. As deputy park director and city councilwoman, Leslie is as relentlessly cheery as Pawnee itself, always eager to take on just about any task without a moment’s rest — well, maybe just long enough to down a plate of waffles and whipped cream.

3. Cliff Clavin – (postal worker) Cheers

A philosopher, a dreamer, and a man of many words, Cliff was Cheers’ resident know-it-all (minus the whole you know, knowing it part). His “little known facts” and constant shenanigans made him lovable despite himself and while he may not have always been at the pinnacle of his profession, he was dedicated to the USPS through and through, even passing up the chance to marry the love of his life because it would have meant doing the unthinkable — working for the Canada Post.

2. Ranger Smith – (park ranger) – The Yogi Bear Show

Speaking of parks, there is no ex-army ranger better able to protect picnic baskets, nor more fearsome to tie-wearing bears, than Ranger Smith. It may well be that Yogi and Boo-Boo’s antagonist formed the inspiration for the deadly Agent Smith in the Matrix movies. This disgraced soldier, aka “Harold,” lorded over the woods of Jellystone and never wavered in his opposition to “that bear.”

4. Mulder and Scully – (federal agents) The X-Files

Technically they are two people, but these twin flames really amounted to one very conflicted federal agent. Fox and Dana shut down more monsters and aliens than Scooby Doo and fell in love along the way. We left them frolicking on a tropical island as aliens took over the Earth, and that may be the smartest decision they ever made.

5. Andy Griffith – (county sheriff) The Andy Griffith Show

Mayberry was the Pawnee of our parents’ generation—a madhouse of small town clichés and lovable residents with no shortage of problems to solve. Sheriff Andy Griffith was always cool in the face of chaos, and made all of America feel safer, despite the antics of his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife. With Andy on his tireless watch, we could happily fall asleep on Aunt Bee’s porch, peeling the skin off an apple.

6. Jack McCoy – (district attorney) Law and Order

That gavel sound byte meant Jack was on the job. For twenty years, the prosecutor-turned-district attorney raged self-righteously against injustice, even while he was breaking or seriously bending the law. We didn’t mind though, because he was usually right. Whether you needed to make someone cry or confess, Jack was up for the task.

7. Sam Seaborn – (deputy White House communications director) The West Wing

For someone to be lovable, they must have faults. Sam was just another man-boy genius speechwriter until we realized that he trusted the wrong people far too often. “It’s hard not to like a guy who doesn’t know frumpy but knows onomatopoeia.” Yes, Sam, you’re right, and whether you knew it or not, you were really talking about yourself.

8. Chris Traeger – (city manager) Parks and Recreation

Rob Lowe’s second appearance on this list makes up for doubling up on Mulder and Scully a bit in number four, but hey, who wouldn’t want to see that face twice right? As for Mr. Traeger, we hope Pawnee doesn’t have term limits, because Chris might literally live to be 150 years old thanks to his embalming regimen of supplements. LIT-ra-ly.

9. Dan Truman – (NASA project director) Armageddon

Houston, we have an asteroid. Quick, call the keyboardist for Diamond Rio. Sorry, wrong Dan Truman. Until a mohawked Mars robot commander hit YouTube, Dan was NASA’s hottest bureaucrat. Even with Bruce Willis’ gratuitous snark, Liv Tyler’s quivering lips, or giant nuclear explosions in space, saving the world was always Truman’s show.

10. Commissioner Gordon – (police commissioner) Batman

He drives the Batmobile, trains Batgirl, and even takes down the Joker single-handedly. Who is that mustachioed man? It’s not the creep with the cowl; it’s the only political appointee that you would want to see with a shotgun: Jim Gordon. Half Sherlock Holmes, half Conan the Barbarian, and a certified kung fu master of the Bat Signal, Gordon is the MVP (Most Valuable Policeman) of Gotham.