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NEW @ THE ACADEMY

Meet our Fellows: Mark Funkhouser (‘16)

Mark Funkhouser served as mayor of Kansas City, Mo., from 2007 to 2011. Prior to being elected mayor, Funkhouser was the city’s auditor for 18 years and was honored in 2003 as a Governing Public Official of the Year. Before becoming publisher of Governing, he served as director of the Governing Institute.  Mr. Funkhouser has his own consulting business and is the president of Funkhouser & Associates.

Funkhouser is an internationally recognized auditing expert author and teacher in public administration and its fiscal disciplines. He holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in public administration and sociology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, an M.B.A. in accounting and finance from Tennessee State University and a master’s degree in social work from West Virginia University. 

Here is a recent interview with Mark:

  1. How did you get involved in public service?

I kind of fell into public service. I graduated from college in 1971. Once I realized the revolution I had expected throughout the 60s wasn’t coming, I took a job that a friend offered me: a guard at a junior prison. After that, I decided to take a civil service exam. The best job I qualified for was as a caseworker with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, so I took it. I liked the field, so I got an MSW and became a social worker.

  1. Looking at the present and into the future, what do you think a public administration “Grand Challenge” is or might be?

Rebuilding people’s confidence in their ability to govern themselves is probably the most fundamental challenge we face. Faith in their ability to influence community conditions through democratic institutions is at an all-time low.  

  1. Reflecting on your career, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

Getting elected mayor of Kansas City, and successfully steering it through the Great Recession is my greatest accomplishment. The harassment I endured throughout my term pairs with that accomplishment in a sadistically funny way.

  1. What is the best advice someone gave you? 

In my freshman year of college, I told the guidance counselor that my life revolved entirely around being a basketball player. She told me not to put all my eggs in that one basket. Man was she right about that.

  1. What inspires you?

The public officials I meet who are plugging away doing good—and sometimes extraordinary—work in state and local government, especially the younger ones, inspire me on a daily basis.

  1. What did/do you want to be when you grow up? 

I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I liked to read, and I couldn’t imagine what else a person with a college degree could do besides be a schoolteacher.

  1. What was the last book you read? 

I just finished a spate of reading about black radical feminists. The most recent, Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry, is a beautiful and inspiring book.

  1. What was your first job?

Hard to say. There were lots of little jobs but my first job after college graduation was as a dishwasher at Eddy Farm Hotel in Sparrow Bush, New York.

  1. What is the best part about where you live?

I divide my time between Long Beach, New York, where I love being close to NYC, and Washington, DC, where I love being at the hallowed center of politics in America.

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