Patricia Wallace Ingraham, elected in 1990, reflects on a career of public service, her work today, and Grand Challenges in Public Administration
The Students - I was blessed to teach and mentor wonderful students from all over the world. They were exciting, challenging –occasionally terrifying in the breadth and depth of their knowledge—energizing, and a joy to work with and know. Teaching was a tremendously rewarding way to spend thirty eight years.
The Volcker Commission - (The National Commission on the Public Service) Paul Volcker was, and is, an inspiration. His vision of government and the public service and his relentless commitment to both provide outstanding models of citizenship and civic duty. The people that we met in hearings and interviews provided stark contrast to the awful label of “faceless bureaucrats”. The experiences of the Volcker Commission were heightened by my later time as the Director of the Government Performance Project. The people I met and worked with at all levels of government ---from the very top (Senator Mark Hatfield was our Chair) through federal agencies (Constance Berry Newman of OPM and the Smithsonian, and who could ever forget Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard?), state agencies and local government (Frank Fairbanks, the City Manager of Phoenix taught me something every single time I talked with him) exemplified excellence.
The International Community of Colleages - Discussions of government reform and change, collaboration among levels of government, leadership in the public sector, and many other issues assumed dimensions and vibrancy not generally part of discussions in a more limited context. The conversations/arguments/meetings were a constant and very enjoyable continuing education.
I am joyously retired and LOVING it!I’m doing some volunteer work: chairing a local foundation board, serving on the Community Foundation Strategic Planning Committee (which one of my former students chairs!), and serving on a Public /Private Committee whose purpose is to advance support for the Arts.My husband, Charlie, retired this year so we’re traveling, visiting children and grandchildren, wine tasting, cooking and enjoying life.Many of my students remain in touch (several of them are now Fellows of the Academy) and it is wonderful to hear of their adventures and amazing achievements.
There are many, but I would begin by quoting my friend and frequent advisor, the late Charlie Levine.
“…In many ways, the public service is the highest service…because it is the hardest and most necessary for our nation’s future…the linkage between public service and nation building is old and enduring…this relationship and the high ideals of our democracy ought to make public service…and the conditions under which it survives a high priority for everyone.”
This challenge ---to maintain the integrity and dignity and value of the public service at a time when they are under appalling attack is a challenge that must be met.
In my view, a closely related challenge is posed by the need to retain the centrality of a focus on serving citizens, not data points. Of course, problem scope and size mandate a reliance on accurate data and data analysis. But maintaining a focus on WHY both the analysis and its accuracy are important is vital to an effective public service: it’s still about the citizens. So this, too, is an important challenge.