Chester Newland, elected in 1975, reflects on a career of public service, his Academy Fellowship, and Grand Challenges in Public Administration
My life roles have been as a teacher and an institutionalist, serving principally as a public administration pracademic As a teacher, my responsibilities have continuously been to facilitate successes of people, individually and collectively, and to advance responsible institutions of constitutional democracy. Fundamental values of these responsibilities are a disciplined search in support of human dignity and reasonableness under a broadly shared Rule of Law.
Forty-four years ago, I was blessed to become a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. That was during one of my two term-limited appointments as Director of the Federal Executive Institute (FEI). During those early FEI years, my role was largely a government-wide teaching responsibility with commensurate authority not simply to speak truths to powers but to help with their accomplishments. Earlier, I had been exceptionally blessed to serve as the initial Director of the LBJ Presidential Library, on a fixed-term leave as a University of Southern California professor. More than any previous or subsequent President, Lyndon Johnson turned over the vast materials associated with the Presidency to the Library Director’s authority, enlarged by my professional independence as a USC teacher in a term-limited role to establish the institution responsibly.
Among several early Academy activities, I served as a Trustee and on our Presidential Transition Panels to assist in the start-ups of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. I served as national President of the American Society for Public Administration during the Reagan Transition, and in that non-partisan role was able to work closely with Ed Meese, along with Dwight Ink, Chuck Bingman, Ralph Bledsoe and others in ASPA and Academy responsibilities to assist in governmental affairs.
Work in support of professionally expert local-government management has been among my most enduring activities. I have been an active Honorary Member of the International City/County Management Association since 1980 (and an academic associate since the 1950s when I completed my PhD at The University of Kansas [KU], the leader in the field). I remain an active member of ICMA’s Credentialing Advisory Board, working monthly on manager’s applications and performance reports. While at the University of North Texas (UNT) as Department of Government Director, I helped to start the City Manager MPA program there. In my Old Age, it is a privilege to reflect on continuing public administration programs with which I have been involved at KU, UNT, George Mason University, the University of Houston, the University of the Pacific McGeorge Law School, and most particularly, USC, which has continuously supported my work as a practitioner.
NAPA’s Grand Challenges include America’s Broken Civic Culture, including weak/failing public and private institutions and Irresponsibly Polarizing Politics. America needs Cyber-Era Civics. Rebirth of required Civics Education at all levels of schooling is needed—but with today’s High-Technologies and Global to Local Realities as basics. America’s Culture is failing to adapt responsibly with respect to social, economic, and political institutions.
Broadly Awesome Challenges of the 1870s through the 1920s were dealt with by creation of Specialized Regulatory Commissions and Civics creations of the Progressive Era. Great Depression and World War Challenges were subsequently met in the 1930s and into the early 1970s by the Administrative State/Public Service Model. Early on in that period, John Dewey lectured the Nation via new-fangled radio on relationships between democracy and civics education, and that held sway for decades. But starting in the 1960s, the Industrial Unionization and Collective Bargaining Model started displacing key elements of the Public Service Model and, in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Administrative State Model became unglued as Policy Studies and separated Public Management, both stressing entrepreneurial and “Business of Government” performance.
While battle scars and honors from those past eras of public administration and Civic Culture that underpinned it remain, some aspects of American Culture have come apart nearly in Humpty Dumpty entirety. Today’s Cyber Era is comprehensively different globally—at individual and organizational and national and international levels. This is a Grand Challenge for the National Academy of Public Administration.