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From Military Service to Public Service: Thanks to The G.I.Bill and ASPA

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Roger L. Kemp
August 16, 2016

My active duty military time gave me an appreciation for public service and the opportunity to get the education that I wanted. My membership in the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) allowed me to network with public officials, provided me with a knowledge of available internships and information on possible employment opportunities in public administration.

The military taught me the value of public service and the need to have a good education. I learned skills that made a significant difference in my life. I was honored to serve our nation and it made me want to continue to serve the public in future years. When I returned to civilian life, I went to night school on The G.I. Bill for nearly 15 years— and never missed a semester!

I completed a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Public Administration degree at San Diego State University. Soon after, I found a job in the Office of City Manager in the City of Oakland, California. I still had time left on The G.I. Bill, so I set my sights on a Doctor of Philosophy degree in public administration. There were only two such doctoral programs in the State of California at the time. I chose the one at Golden Gate University,  located in San Francisco, California and across the bay from the City of Oakland.

It took me five years to complete it, one evening class per semester while working full time. The same month I received my Ph.D., I went from being an assistant to the city manager in the City of Oakland to becoming a city manager in the City of Seaside, California. I have served as a city manager ever since that time—in Southern California, New Jersey, Connecticut and then back in Northern California.

Every place where I was a city manager, I taught courses in an MPA program at night at the local public university. It was easy to get a teaching assignment as an adjunct professor with my education and my experience as a city manager.

Over the years I have published, or been a contributing author to, nearly 50 books on various topics related to public management—from strategic planning in local governments to the preservation of our natural resources. My book on the best practices in homeland security was made available to every city manager in America.

thank-you-1428147_640Obtaining college degrees on The G.I. Bill changed my life! It greatly enhanced my public service career and provided me with the opportunity to teach at some of the leading universities throughout the nation.

I encourage young people to serve in one of the branches of our military service and to receive the subsequent benefits provided to them under The G.I. Bill. It will help them achieve their personal and career goals in cities and states throughout America, “the land of opportunity.” The G.I. Bill paid for my entire education, which has served me well throughout my lifetime. Other young people have the same opportunity!

Students should also join national professional associations, like ASPA. These groups have regular meetings, workshops and opportunities to network with other public officials. It also provides an opportunity for young people to acquire a knowledge of possible internships and employment in their field.

Memberships in professional associations, like ASPA, enhance a young person’s resume too. Students, especially graduate students, should join respected national professional organizations like ASPA. Much like The G.I. Bill, membership in ASPA will help students achieve their educational goals and will help them achieve their desired employment goals in the public sector.


Author: Roger L. Kemp, AA, BS, MPA, MBA, Ph.D., has been a career city manager in California, Connecticut and New Jersey. He is currently a professional in residence at the University of New Haven, and a distinguished adjunct professor at Golden Gate University. Kemp is also past-president of two ASPA Chapters. He can be reached via email at [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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