Beyond a Government of Strangers: How Career Executives and Political Appointees Can Turn Conflict to Cooperation

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With rare exceptions, few large institutions change bosses every two or three years. Yet the U.S. Government has temps on top. Thousands of political appointees come in to run an agency or department and depart soon after, at the whims of the electorate, due to inside-the-Beltway bureaucratic politics, or because of their own ambitions. Many career bureaucrats view their temporary political bosses as "ins and outers," "birds of passage," or, more derisively, "Christmas help." Yet for better or worse, the number of Santa's helpers has doubled since 1960 even as the length of their stay in government has declined. Numerous scholars advocate reform of the political appointment process, and many primers have appeared to help the appointees adjust to life inside the Beltway. Beyond a Government of Strangers is the first book to focus on the men and women who stick around, on the career executives and their own roles in the executive branch. Robert Maranto provides pithy and sage advice on how career leaders can improve tenuous relationships and overcome conflicts with political appointees, especially during presidential transitions. He offers a rare insider's perspective, with the first-person account of former Deputy Counsel of the Navy Harvey Wilcox and quotations taken from interviews with scores of career executives. Included in the book are helpful strategies such as "Ten Tips on Managing Your Political Boss" and invaluable details such as how careerists at different Federal agencies handle the orientation of new appointees. The wisdom collected here will ensure more effective relationships in our government as well as more astute scholars of public administration. No one working inside the Beltway can afford to miss this book.

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Editorial Reviews

Curt Smith
I served every U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director from 1979 to 1998 and reported directly to five of them, and thus went through the transition when each arrived. I can thus say from direct experience that Professor Maranto has hit his target squarely. I hope that my successors as Director of the Federal Executive Institute will have the wisdom to put this book among the management books that sit on the shelf of every executive bedroom at the Institute.
Stephen E. Condrey
Beyond a Government of Strangers is a fascinating look inside the critical nexus where political appointees and career bureaucrats meet. It is a unique and substantial contribution to the fields of presidential politics, public management, and public human resource management—indeed, it should be read by all interested in effective governance.
Robert F. Durant
Bob Maranto and his colleagues irreverently take on much of what passes for conventional wisdom about political appointee-careerist relations in the federal government. They do so armed with wit, wisdom, data, experience, and a welcome conversational prose style. Shibboleths beware! The verdict's in and Beyond a Government of Strangers delivers it, puts it in context, and tells appointees and careerists what to do about it.
Donald F. Kettl
Stepping into the shoes of Hugh Heclo's classic, A Government of Strangers, is a tall order. But in this lively book, Maranto admirably succeeds. He not only explores the nooks and crannies of how the upper levels of the American bureaucracy really work. He illustrates his cogent analysis with first-person tales from the public executives who live that life. The result is a unique and valuable look at the public service—and what we can do to improve it.
Carol A. Bonasaro
Even highly successful and experienced career executives can find living at the intersection between political appointees and the career civil service tricky at best and fraught with peril at worst. Dr. Maranto's book should be required reading on both sides of this fence.
James P. Pfiffner
Maranto's book is chock full of good advice, yet it is not preachy. . . . If the insights in this book are heeded, accommodation [between career civil servants and political appointees] will occur sooner rather than later, and everyone will be able to get on with their mission: serving the public.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739110898
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 5/15/2005
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Maranto teaches political science and public administration at Villanova University. He formerly served as senior faculty member at the Federal Executive Institute. Maranto has done extensive research on political appointees in government, civil service reform, and education reform (particularly charter schools). His most recent book isRadical Reform of the Civil Service (with Steven Condrey, Lexington Books, 2001).

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Political Appointees, Career Executives, and Leadership at the "T" Chapter 2 Why Presidents Need Political Appointees, and How Those Appointees (Mostly) Add Value to Government Chapter 3 Why We Fight: The Causes of Conflict between Career and Political Officials Chapter 4 A Careerist's Perspective: Keeping Bad Ideas from Becoming Presidential Policy Chapter 5 Beyond the Fire Hose: How We Orient Political Appointees, and How We Could Do It Better Chapter 6 Beyond a Government of Strangers: What You Can Do to Get Along with Your Political Appointees Chapter 7 Appendix 1: A Model Orientation Curriculum for Political Appointees Chapter 8 Appendix 2: Guidelines for Loyal Dissent in Government

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