Sunday, December 29, 2013

Two Keys to Being a Great Local Government Public Official

Becoming a great local public official actually only requires two simple things:

1) Experience - Understanding your role in local government and knowing your constituents

2) Value - Offering the majority of your constituents something they can relate to.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Verbal Communication – Is It Important or Not?

Recently I was told this legend and I have absolutely no idea whether or not it is true.   However, the lesson content in this legend is so good that I just have to share it.  I believe every local public official needs to understand this issue.

The legend goes that there was an interesting exchange between two great geniuses. One genius was Charlie Chaplin, the great silent film star; the other genius was Albert Einstein, the world renowned physicist.

According to this legend, Einstein approached Mr. Chaplin and said, "Charlie, what I admire most about you is the fact that you don't say a word in any of the films you make yet the entire world understands everything you are trying to convey."

The legend goes on to say that Mr. Chaplin replied, “Yes Albert that is true; however, what I admire most about you is even greater. Everyone, including all the greatest minds in the world, respect you and what you speak yet no one understands a word of what you say or proclaim!"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Very Special Pearl of Wisdom - A Real Gem - The Vietman Wall

Most of you know I try my best to be non-political in all my posts and comments. I seldom if ever share my political opinion – I stick to the policies and processes of local government – not the politics. 

Today, I received this wonderful reminder from a good friend which I would like to share.  It contains a history that is slowly being forgotten and sadly most of us don’t even know.  I am not advocating anything – I am just sharing some unbelievable interesting statistics regarding the Vietnam Memorial Wall – something many of us especially in my generation find so special and hold so near and dear.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 names on the Wall were 22 years old or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam.

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

31 sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia {wonder why so many from one school}

8 Women are on the Wall all nurses tending to the wounded.

244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest.  And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

I know that many who read this they will only see the numbers; however for those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we still see the faces, we still feel the pain.

There are very few if any wars that are noble; however those who gave it all were noble.

Maybe you can pass this on, to those like me, who served and still remember.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pearl # 98 Emotions of Local Public Officials

Most people are unaware of this odd fact that the range of emotions lobsters go through ... from being chosen at the tank in a grocery store to being brought home and then tossed alive into a pot of hot boiling water in someone's kitchen ... are almost identical to the range of emotions candidates for local public office experience from the time they are encouraged by family and friends to take out papers and run for public office to the time they are actually sworn in. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Does Your Community Need Help with Economic Development? This article might be a good read.

I know there are many communities struggling to ignite economic development.  I found this great article on Why Local Governments Fail at Economic Development which I thought I would share with you.

Feel free to share this article with local public officials or  individuals who work in economic development agencies.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Just a Little Bragging. Please Indulge Me.

Your blog post "How Local Government Decisions Are Really Made" was just featured on GovLoop  - Knowledge Network for Government....because it was awesome.

Keep up the awesome
- Steve

To see your blog post featured, visit:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Ever Happened To The Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence?

With the Fourth of July Holiday tomorrow it might be a good time to ask this question Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Well here is what history tells us.
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors,and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.

Eleven were merchants,

Nine were farmers and large plantation owners;

men of means, well educated,

but they signed the Declaration of Independence

knowing full well that the penalty would be death if

they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy.

He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly.

He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown , Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: The Freedom we enjoy wasn't free!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 97 - Frustration

It’s extremely frustrating to think that elected local public officials - men and women who are capable of accomplishing incredibly amazing things - so often do absolutely nothing of significance during their term of office.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 96 Motions and Resolutions

Not every motion or resolution passed by a local government body is fair, but overall most local units of government make  damn good decisions.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pearl # 95 How To Deal with Bad Decisions in Local Office

Don’t ever lose sleep over the bad decisions you made while you were in local public office - as long as you made them with the best facts available at the time and no malice in your heart.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pearl # 94 Rules to Follow When Meeting With Community Residents

Three important tips to remember when meeting with community residents:
  1)   Be polite,
2)   Be professional, and
3)   Always be prepared to strictly  enforce any ordinance or 
      policy your Township, Village, City, County, Borough, or
      Parish currently has in effect.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Memorial Day Will Soon Be Here

Please look at this Memorial Day picture.

The only person standing as "Old Glory" comes down the street ...

Is the old man in the wheel chair.

Please Share Any Pearls You Have

The Pearls of Wisdom posted on this blog were gleaned from a 30 plus year career in government. If, or your colleagues, have harvested some real gems that you think are great Pearls of Wisdom will you share them?

Its easy!  Just click here and send them to us. Our pearls are intended for individuals who are Public Officials in Local Government how any pearl that makes sound business sense or can help a career professional or business leader reduce their learning curve will gladly be accepted.

Thank You

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 93 Types of Local Public Officials

There appear to be two types of Local Public Officials in every local government.

First, there are those who appear to be on a mission.

Then, there are those who appear to be on intermission.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Seven Compelling Reasons to Terminate a Local Government Employee

During my career in local government, there were numerous times individuals running for public office would boast that when they get into office they were going to clean house, get rid of waste, and fire unnecessary public employees to reduce the payroll.  Man, that rhetoric sure sounded good during the campaign; however from what I have observed, 99% of locally elected government officials found terminating a public employee very unpleasant.  Most agonized during the termination hearing.  Many wanted to give the employee a second chance.

Some were concerned what the impact of the job loss would have on the person’s family.  Some dreaded the thought of confronting them in the local community.  Worst yet, some knew the employees either as a friend of the family or as a member of a local organization.  Consequently, terminating local government employees took a toll on most local public officials.

As a County Administrator I had to wear the black hat many times and I came to believe there were only seven valid reasons to terminate a public employee.  Whenever I based my decision to recommend terminating an employee on one of these seven reasons, I never missed a night’s sleep or had regrets.  I share these reasons with you in the hopes that you can benefit from them.  I know from personal experience, these seven reasons will pass any court or union test and I vehemently believe if public officials don’t enforce these reasons, they abdicate their responsibility to the public they serve.    

1) Theft.  Anytime a local government employee is caught stealing or misappropriating government resources, terminate immediately.  Employees who steal from government are not taking from the corporate coffers; they are stealing from every taxpayer and resident in the community and therefore have no place whatsoever in local government.

2) Falsification of government records.  Government records are public documents; they are part of a community’s official history and need to be accurate.  If an employee falsifies public records, terminate immediately. Examples would be: filing false expense vouchers, exaggerating hours worked on a time sheet, and backdating or postdating government/department transactions.

3) Loss of license or certification.  Many government employees, by virtue of their positions, are required to possess a state license or academic certification.  Job announcements always state: must possess a valid XXX or YYY at the time of application (i.e. valid state driver’s license, CDL commercial driver’s license, a social worker license, appraiser certification, etc.).  Should an employee lose his or her ability to maintain required licensing or certification, terminate immediately.

4) Inability to meet physical requirements of the job.  This one gets a little tricky because of workers comp and ADA requirements.  However if an employee is no longer able to physically perform their duties “with reasonable accommodations”, terminate immediately.  Clear examples would be: a law enforcement officer who loses both legs in a car crash while in a pursuit or a clerical person who loses eyesight during a home accident.  (Both, by the way, were real world issues I experienced.)  A law enforcement officer without legs cannot chase a suspect nor can a sight-impaired clerical person file or type as required.

5) Incompetence.  Some employees, public as well as private, find themselves in positions where they are academically qualified for, but ill-suited for, a particular job.  Though they have the knowledge, they may not possess the personality or the temperament for a position.  If training, mentoring or coaching cannot help an individual achieve minimum standards or performance expectations, terminate immediately.  Working with irate members of the public or consistently being able to remember all required tasks are traits not every individual possesses.     

6) Under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Units of local government have drug and alcohol policies.  Should an employee return from lunch under the influence or engage in alcohol or drug consumption while on duty, terminate immediately.  Never condone such incidents or let the person go home and sleep it off; I guarantee it will come back to haunt you.

7) Excessive tardiness or absenteeism.  Every municipal government I know operates on a tight budget.  When employees fail to arrive on time or show up when required, they put their government function in jeopardy.  Oversleeping, car problems, unique home situations, etc. cannot take precedence over the stated job requirements.   If excessive tardiness or absenteeism continues after an employee has been given two written warnings, terminate immediately. 

I sincerely hope these seven reasons make sense and allow you to make good termination decisions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 91 - Worries

Most of the stuff local public officials worry about won't ever happen; it's always the stuff they didn't think about that gets them in trouble.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 90 - Public Comments

You cannot "unsay" a stupid comment.  Be very careful what you say in public ... or private ... when you are a locally elected government official or senior public employee.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 89 - Voting Records

A "good voting record" in local government comes from years of experience - and a lot of that experience comes from having a bad voting record.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 88 - Local Censorship

Most people are not aware of this, but the first married couple (husband and wife) ever to be shown in bed together on American television during prime time was Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

This was solely because there were so many strict "local" censorship laws throughout US which prevented married couples such as Ozzie & Harriet, Donna & Alex, Ricky & Lucy and Rob & Laura to be shown in bed together. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 87 - Never Throw Dirt

Never throw "dirt" at a colleague during a public meeting or at a public event.  You will only ''lose ground" in the eyes of the public.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 86 - Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is the most important quality a newly elected local government official can bring to any public body. 

Enthusiasm can compensate for one's lack of experience, maturity, or wavering confidence.

Enthusiasm is more than just giving 100%.  Enthusiasm is being willing to go that extra mile when everyone else in the room wants to quit.

If you are a local public official, be enthusiastic in everything you do:

    Answer your phone enthusiastically.
      Greet people enthusiastically.
    Walk with an enthusiastic stride.

Be Enthusiastic!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pearl of Wisdom # 85 - Eliminate Negative Words

Get rid yourself of negativity when you walk in a public enviroment.

Eliminate using negative words when you speak in public.
Such As: