Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in public administration?
I pursued a career in government because I wanted to make a difference. Political Science and public administration were the last of my few majors in college and immediately fell in love with the concept of helping government programs function better, serving citizens, and managing projects and programs in the public sphere. I was particularly inspired by the opportunities to make a difference that was meaningful and aligned to my passion for public service.
Who has been a key mentor or source of inspiration for you?
A key source of inspiration has always been knowing how challenging public service is and how many opportunities exist to make a difference. With missions so diverse, it’s always harder to measure performance. The bottom line is so different from private sector interests, making the achievement of many public programs more challenging to fund, manage, and/or justify. Garnering support for critical programs is a fascinating process from initial development to budget justification to the White House and congressional approval.
What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing a career in public administration?
Be patient! Making a difference takes time. Being a change agent requires many moving parts to all align. Getting into government service is a process that is not easy or efficient. However, despite the obstacles, it’s more than worth it. The impact each public servant can make is potentially tremendous and the need for smart, dedicated, and energetic future leaders has never been greater. Find your passion, work hard to make a difference, and don’t be discouraged for long by bureaucracy. Identify ways to thrive within the system and help make government work better.
What consistencies and differences did you encounter during your experience working in different federal agencies? Would presidential administration shifts impact your work?
There are obvious differences in each federal agency, such as mission, leadership make-up, and size/status of the organization. For example, when I worked at the FBI, I never had to explain to anyone what the mission was, as opposed to when I served as the CFO at the Federal Election Commission. There are also numerous consistencies pertaining to rules around hiring, procurement, pay/salary, benefits, and hours. However, even the similarities had differences in the sense that every agency has developed processes for administrative operations that are always a bit unique to the culture of the agency. And yes, a change in the White House would often impact the priorities of the work performed. For example, when I served as the Budget Director at the Department of Housing and Urban Development for 4 years, I noticed a big difference in the two years under a Republican president versus my last two years under a Democratic president. It was the same job, but the programs that received greater attention shifted accordingly.
What would you currently consider the most critical challenge for public administration and why?
I think recruitment and retention are the most critical challenges facing governments at all levels. The pandemic has only made it harder for many to recruit college graduates into our field. It’s simply not a profession that young adults get exposed to very frequently. When I speak to students and young professionals, most are amazed at the scope of responsibilities and range of opportunities that public service offers. Millennials and Gen Z professionals will want more opportunities to move between the public and private sectors, so government agencies need to make it easier for professionals to rotate between the two sectors more easily.
How was your experience participating in the Presidential Management Intern Fellowship? How did your time there prepare you to navigate working in future federal agencies?
The Presidential Management Fellow Program (called the PM Intern program when I served in 1990) is easily one of the best ways to join federal service. It creates an avenue for graduate school students studying in the fields of public administration, business, law, and international studies to explore career opportunities in the federal government by participating in a two-year fellowship. This fellowship often provides opportunities for the PMF to rotate to other agencies or Congress during the two-year period to truly get a rich experience and perspective of government service. My personal experience at the FBI was a bit different from others, as I was not afforded the opportunity to rotate to other agencies, but I was provided many challenges and responsibilities that interested me enough to accept full-time employment at the FBI after my Fellowship ended. That was the beginning of a 24-year federal career that spanned service at five agencies.
What is your favorite cuisine?
It’s an interesting question. I think favorite cuisines are often a reflection of opportunity. As the son of Italian Americans, I grew up eating mostly Italian and American food. However, as an adult, I have traveled to a few dozen countries, and lived in Washington DC for three decades, an area that affords me the chance to eat any type of food I want quite easily. So my favorite cuisine has shifted over the years, but still usually takes me back to my roots. Short answer would be Italian 😊.
What is your favorite hobby or activity that you enjoy doing in your free time?
Designing new houses. I just moved into the third house that I designed and I’m already thinking about my next project to build! I guess it gives me an outlet for creatively “thinking outside the lines” a bit more than my day job, but helps me keep this mindset involved for solving challenges to help make government perform better.
Tony Scardino is a Partner at Guidehouse, where he helps lead projects in the Energy, Sustainability, and Infrastructure segment. Tony currently leads client engagements at the Departments of Justice, Commerce, and Labor, respectively, as well as the Federal Reserve Board.
Previous to this position, Tony was a Managing Principal at Grant Thornton, where he led the firm’s cadre of former government executives (FGEs) that leveraged its experience and expertise to help agencies work across the C-suite to improve mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars.
Until July 2019, Tony was the Chief Financial Officer for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), serving as principal advisor to the USPTO Director in leading and improving the financial management, accounting, budgeting, fee setting, revenue forecasting, financial systems, and organizational performance of the agency. In this role, Tony oversaw an annual budget that exceeded $3 billion, supporting almost 13,000 USPTO employees. Tony also spent much of 2017 and 2018 as the agency’s Acting Deputy Director. His prior experience includes service as the Budget Director at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and a senior budget analyst at the FBI.
In recognition of his achievements, Tony has been the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award (2014), the Frank Greathouse National Leadership Award from AGA (2017), and American University’s Roger W Jones Award for Executive Leadership (2018).