Why Are High-Level Positions Almost Always Filled With Non-Local People?

Mark Marcoplos's picture

It’s standard procedure. When we need to find a new County Manager or Superintendent of Schools or other top-ranking staff member, a consulting firm (usually also non-local) is paid to winnow the field of applicants from across the country. Then the appropriate local body makes their choice and awaits the arrival of the new person, someone who has likely received training for employment administering homogeneous systems used everywhere in this huge, diverse country.

Granted, there are so many rules, legalities, and standard operating procedures in government that the priority may necessarily be to find someone who has proven adept at dealing with the bureaucratic labyrinth and standard policies.

By accepting this priority we are effectively saying that local knowledge of the history, people, policies, environment, and politics of our town, county, or school district is secondary to knowledge of how to govern according to the state or nationally prescribed norms and requirements.

Maybe the demands of governing in today’s society have made these priorities necessary. Maybe the skills taught from the same textbooks in planning departments of universities across the country and then honed working in municipalities run according to this same body of knowledge are of prime importance. Or maybe someone with roots and knowledge of the community could help us govern more effectively and creatively while relying on other staff that is knowledgeable of legal and bureaucratic requirements.

What do you think? Is it worth experimenting with local talent? Or are the stakes and risks too high for creative experimentation of this sort?

Tags: 

issue: 

Total votes: 0

7 Comments

Local

Mark, we asked a local firm to put a bid in for the managers search. They did not. Shame. They came highly recommended by local politicians and local managers. 

 

Penny 

 

Suzanne Haff's picture

Inbreeding

I think the idea of trading around of equals is to bring a fresh perspective and a new eye to old problems. There are often too many favors' owed with locals, I think. That is not always the case and shouldn't be a rule one way or the other. We just need the best. 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Case in point: Four Eggers

I share this concern, Suzanne, although I don't diagree with Mark's point either. The recent case of the Wautauga Board of Elections is a good example of this: 

Digital thumbprints left on resolutions approved along party lines by the Republican-controlled Watauga County Board of Elections show that the "author" of those resolutions is not the county elections director or board members.It's Stacy Clyde Eggers IV.And the computer on which the documents were written belongs to his law firm, Eggers, Eggers, Eggers & Eggers, according to those thumbprints, or document properties.Eggers, also known as "Four," is the county attorney and the brother of Luke Eggers, the elections board chairman.The thumbprints and a 40-minute interview with Four Eggers reveal that he played a key role in crafting what critics view as an effort to thwart students at Appalachian State University from voting, to muzzle public comments at elections board meetings by requiring that they be submitted in writing, and to neuter the ability of Jane Hodges, the elections director, to offer advice at public meetings. - http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/article_eda0661c-1da6-11e3-bb86-001...

There's a great blog all about this issue at http://blog.wataugawatch.net/ BTW. 

James Barrett's picture

Examples which I think show Mark's point

While not the top jobs, the high level positions of Police Chiefs of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, and the Econ Development Director for OC certainly all qualify as locals and are all great people who really know this community and provide ability to bring their solid professionalism to our unique community at a level of understanding someone from outside would have a hard time matching.  I specifically advocated for Carrboro (as someone who works and plays there even if I don't live there) to use this as a criteria in the police chief search.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Yes, local IS better

That's a great point, James. And as I said, I do generally agree with Mark. All other things being equal, local IS better in terms of understanding the community they are serving.We just need more transparency and less backroom deals all around.