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Help Wanted: Qualified Leaders
Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Protests and politics in Wisconsin have increased the sharp focus on government salaries and benefits, creating a rippling effect in other states. Ohio and Illinois are engaged in similar debates, and California Assemblyman Allan Mansoor has introduced legislation seeking to change the collective bargaining process in the Golden State. For months, newspaper headlines and editorials have expressed sharp criticism of the public sector, leaving the impression that there are a “bunch of crooks” and “greedy” employees running government.
While I am concerned about the inability of public agencies to balance budgets while facing monumental unfunded benefits, I am also concerned about the impact of the hand-wringing and harsh criticism on the future of public sector jobs. Not only are good people choosing to retire from public office, there is a significant turnover among professionals, according to the International City/and County Management Association (ICMA).
The phenomenon, sometimes called the “retirement tidal wave” has prompted Next Generation Initiatives, an ICMA project designed to “attract and develop a wide and diverse group of people into the local government management profession, including students, early and mid-career professionals, and individuals from other fields.”
In my work with undergraduate political science students I emphasize the many challenges and rewards of public service, and remind them that elective office is not the only way to engage in meaningful change.
Let’s hope the current crisis inspires a new generation of problem solvers.
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