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Alternative Roles For Professional Public Managers, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two part series. You will find a link to Part 1 in the Related Articles box at the end of this article.

Thomas L. Bertone

Under the Conservative Democratic/Iron Triangle Model Combination, Career Managers Are Experts in Legislative Political Agreements and the Administrative Implications of the Resulting Legislative Controls. Under the Conservative Democratic philosophy, society is pluralistic. The majority controls government, but rights of minorities are protected. For government to proceed and society to progress, the legislature must negotiate political agreements among competing factions. These agreements are difficult to obtain and must be maintained during execution. The legislature controls the executive closely to ensure adherence to agreements. This may include legislating administrative procedures to ensure that control.

Political appointees are representatives of the various factions. They understand deeply the interests of the factions they represent and the legislative agreements that have been reached to protect those interests. Their job is to ensure that the career service protects those agreements and implements them according to legislative intent. They also ensure coordination among governmental operations, i.e., implementation of legislative agreements, to remove conflicts and minimize inefficiencies.

Appointees expect career managers to be substantive specialists. They expect managers, in a substantive area, to know very well personnel of the bureaucracy, interests groups, and legislature, including legislative staffs, and, consequently, to understand the expectations of the stakeholders in the substantive area. They also expect managers in an area to be knowledgeable about legislative agreements and legislative controls, e.g., procedures, instituted to protect those agreements. Finally and importantly, because of close legislative control of the bureaucracy, appointees expect managers actually to direct and control implementation and execution of legislative agreements so as to meet expectations of the stakeholders.

In summary, political appointees expect career managers to implement and execute reliably legislative agreements, e.g., programs, in their areas of substantive specialty.

Under the Liberal Democratic/Stewardship Model Combination, Career Managers Are Experts in Documenting and Evaluating the Success of Policies and Programs in Responding to the Public Will. Under the Liberal Democratic philosophy, society is composed of independent, mature and moral individuals. The executive branch secures the rights of these individuals, and the legislative reflects their will, legislating so that government will do what the people want it to do. In doing so, the legislature establishes broadly defined policy, and the executive translates this policy into detailed programs for implementation and operation. The executive has broad discretion in making the translation.

Political appointees are political executives in a substantive area, e.g., welfare, transportation, police, etc.… They have in-depth knowledge of public demand in their respective areas, and they are responsible for designing programs to meet demand. They are responsible for implementing these programs and improving existing programs, and they are experts in communicating to the public the administration’s success in responding to the demand.

Appointees expect managers to direct and control the gathering, analysis, and presentation of data both on public demand and public reaction to governmental policies and programs. They expect career managers to provide expert assistance in designing, implementing, evaluating and improving programs for substantive results. Appointees also expect career managers to direct and control the operation of governmental programs. To maximize success, appointees expect career managers to use the techniques of New Public Management to the extent possible.

In summary, appointees expect career managers to assist them broadly in responding to the public will.

In conclusion, the public administration profession defines a set of responsibilities for public managers. Political administrations, depending upon the political grouping to which they belong, emphasize different subsets of these responsibilities. A public manager needs to be sensitive to these differences and, using this article as a guide, react as the administration in office finds appropriate.

Thomas L. Bertone is retired president, Thomas L. Bertone and Associates (Management Consultants). Email: [email protected]

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