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Thank You and a Departing Message

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

By James Bourey
December 15, 2023

After serving for three years as a monthly PA Times columnist and penning now 34 columns, I want to express my sincere appreciation to ASPA for the opportunity to contribute to our profession in this way. A very special thanks to Karen Garrett for the excellent work that she does with this publication as well as her other responsibilities. It has been a pleasure to work with you as well as Jessica Rylander, who has been the direct contact on submitting the columns. The trust you placed in me over this time has been wonderful. This will be my last column, at least for now, as I have assumed a new role as the Executive Director of the Seattle Architecture Foundation and need to devote most of my energy to this endeavor and other responsibilities. In this column I want to hit the highlights of many of my columns. This will cover what I consider to be the most important messages I have attempted to communicate.

In order to address systemic racism all people must be given the needed support, skills and opportunity in a setting free from bias to the greatest extent possible. Steps that must be taken to address instances of police use of excess force including reforming the selection, training and termination of police officers as well as the setting of standards for the use of force and a reassessment of the services which police provide (2/19/21).

In a slightly different take on leadership qualities those most important were detailed, including excellent communication ability, enthusiasm and a high energy level, skilled in facilitation and collaboration, ability to focus, analytic ability, emotional intelligence, self-confidence, selflessness, patience with a sense of urgency, commitment, flexibility, fortitude, good judgment and being authentic (3/21/21).

While providing access to data is important, for cities to truly be transparent they cannot rely on traditional media but rather must tell their own stories (4/17/21).

A local government manager’s career comes with many difficult challenges but the reward is worth the challenge (4/29/21).

Training and development programs in emotional intelligence, defined as the ability to have a clear and true understanding of how others perceive you, to be able to interrelate to others in a positive, constructive manner and to be in control of your actions and reactions in given situations, while being true to your own beliefs and not shying away from making contributions as you interact with others is the most important effort that managers can provide (5/21/21).

Conducting annual five year financial forecasts is critical for local government policy development and budgeting (6/20/21).

Cities and counties must put in place a program to ensure that adequate public facilities exist at the time of land use development (7/17/21).

Land use plans and controls must address global warming and public infrastructure costs (8/22/21).

In a world of misinformation propagated by social media and biased “news” coverage, public administrators must be dedicated champions of the truth (10/4/21).

Rather than consider reparations as a payment to people for centuries of wrongs, we need to think of reparations as an aggressive investment in those programs that would better enable all Black people to successfully compete in the socio-economic system.

Public administrators must promote a less divisive country by starting a dialog characterized by active listening that promotes understanding and acceptance of one another (6/13/22).

In order to address global warming, cities and counties must be good stewards of the environment by seeking to reduce the level of automobile travel, preserving and expanding the natural environment, encouraging cleaner fuels, better managing the waste stream and reducing emissions from all types of activities (7/11/22).

In addition to the guidelines for ethical action that exist for the professions in which public employees participate, the employees also have the ethical obligation to report they conduct of others that may be illegal or otherwise inappropriate (12/12/22).

Rather than focus on any of the latest management improvement programs, public administrative professionals need to practice basic management principles:

  • Engaging with employees
  • Delegating responsibilities and authority
  • Establishing and articulating a vision, goals and objectives
  • Fostering teamwork
  • Measuring performance
  • Holding people accountable
  • Promoting emotional intelligence (1/20/23)

University research can best help local government management by focusing research and writing on in-depth case studies of successful local government efforts (3/17/23).

As local government managers seek to guide their organizations they need to understand the value of storytelling and incorporate it into the way they communicate with their employees. This approach was taken in the writing of From Peril to Light, a novel with the embedded message promoting understanding and acceptance of others (4/21/23).

There are critically important ethical standards that professionals must follow in their searches for city and county manager positions, including accuracy on all submitted material, openness in all communication and other searches they may be participating in and following through on any commitments made (5/19/23).

In addition to developing an awareness of diversity, committing to equal treatment of everyone and developing a level of cultural competency among employees, local government leaders need to develop program which celebrate the diversity of their workforce (6/15/23).

APSA contributes greatly to our wonderful profession and it has been an honor and a privilege to have the chance to contribute.

Author: James Bourey served local government for 37 years, including as a city and county manager and regional council executive director. He also worked as a consultant to local government for another six years. He is the author of numerous professional articles as well as the books, A Journey of Challenge, Commitment and Reward; Tales of a City/County Manager and A Guidebook for City and County Managers: Meeting Today’s Challenges.

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