No Californian is more inspiring than Austin Beutner.

The Los Angeles investment banker has gone straight to the top of four major civic institutions in the last decade. And he didn’t have to pay his dues at any of them.

It started in late 2009 when Beutner, having decided to devote himself to public service after a bicycle accident, convinced Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to appoint him as first deputy mayor of the city of L.A., despite his lack of prior experience in local government. Four months into that stint, he was named interim general manager of L.A.’s famous Department of Water and Power—without experience in engineering or utilities.

Then, Beutner, without experience in journalism, took over as publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and later publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune. But all those were a mere appetizer for his latest job. Beutner this week became superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. With 600,000 students, it’s the largest school district in California and the second largest in the nation. And yes, he had no previous experience in school districts.

Of course cynics might look at Beutner’s conquest of Los Angeles—the fastest takeover of a major global city since the Visigoths sacked Rome—and suggest that Southern California’s institutions must be awfully weak to keep seeking the services of the same finance guy. They might question why he keeps getting jobs while only staying in previous ones for a short time (typically a year or so) and without producing a record of sustained success.

To such critics, I say, you are prisoners of your small minds and narrow horizons. My fellow Californians, Austin Beutner is a model for us all.

His inspiring lesson for this state is that you can be anything that you want to be, with one big caveat. You have to want to be the leader of one of the big, complicated institutions that Californians suspect is destined to fail, no matter who leads it.

Beutner’s number one qualification is an understanding that most Californians have given up on governance. This state’s public institutions are so complex and dysfunctional, that we feel utterly powerless to fix them.

So most Californians look at leadership positions in such institutions and ask ourselves, why would anyone bother? Beutner has discovered the answer: There is opportunity in California’s governing hopelessness. What, after all, is there to lose if you fail as school superintendent? Especially when even a modest effort can beat our low expectations?

Of course, this method is not available to everyone. In the 21st century, to be able to pick your own gig, you need a background in high finance, and connections to rich people. Beutner fits the bill: He worked at Smith Barney and the Blackstone Group, before, and then after a stint at the U.S. State Department, co-founded investment banking firm Evercore Partners.

To get the jobs, he portrays himself as the rare Angeleno who hasn’t given up on these institutions. He studies up on an entity, maybe participates in a task force, and eventually tells the rich people who matter in L.A. that he thinks there might be a way to fix it. And those rich people call the elected officials whose campaigns they fund, and pretty soon Beutner is running said institution.

Then Beutner works hard, and advances intriguing ideas. But nothing ever takes hold permanently because, before very long, he is off to the next hornet’s nest.

And that can’t be blamed on Beutner. By definition these are short-term, no-hope gigs. And the people who fill them are sacrificial lambs (or, in Beutner’s case, sacrificial sharks). At DWP, Beutner was the ninth general manager in 10 years. At the L.A. Times, he was just one of multiple publishers fired by out-of-town ownership.

Who are any of us to complain about Beutner’s short tenures, since we can’t be bothered to assist these institutions ourselves? Look at me. Back when Beutner was starting with the city, I was living in Los Angeles with young kids. But did I take over as L.A. Unified superintendent or offer to run DWP? No. To my shame, I surrendered to my own needs and bought a house in a good school district in the San Gabriel Valley.

Beutner is sacrificing so I don’t have to. And building a resume so that one day he might be U.S. senator or even president of the United States, a job for which he is already overqualified.

It’s high time we stopped whining about Beutner and other plutocrats running our institutions—and started emulating them.

I, for one, resolve to follow Beutner’s example.

Instead of writing this column that appears in various California papers, I herby offer myself as their publisher. (Would I really be any worse at running legacy media businesses than their current operators?) Or maybe I should aim even higher. Just as Beutner participated in reports on civic institutions before taking them over, I’ve reported on California water policy (I could chair the state water board), elections (I could be L.A. county registrar-recorder), and the arts (maybe I could straighten out the war-torn MOCA in downtown L.A.). Heck, I wrote a well-reviewed book about Arnold Schwarzenegger. That means I probably could be governor or run a movie studio.

The magic of Austin Beutner is that he opens up new possibilities. He never sells himself short. Neither should we.

Yes, his L.A. Unified stay should be short—one of the four members of the narrow board majority that gave him the job is under federal indictment. But don’t worry—the Los Angeles Opera needs new leadership, LAX is still a mess, and the Dodgers need a president who can at least pretend to get games back on television.

To follow Beutner is to follow the zeitgeist. Today, everyone knows that knowledge is power, and that power corrupts—so knowledge is itself corrupt. Yes, it’s a fallen world. But let’s rise in it.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.