A democracy requires government to function effectively, and public employees are the ones who make that happen.
It’s easy to take government services for granted. Most of us don’t think twice about the clean water that comes from our faucets, the trash that’s picked up on schedule or the effort that goes into caring for our most vulnerable citizens.
One key to doing these jobs well is lifelong learning. In a rapidly changing world, public employees must commit themselves to mastering the latest developments in their fields so that government services are as efficient as possible.
I saw inspiring examples of such commitment at the recent graduation ceremony of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Certified Public Manager program. The program develops today’s leaders by teaching management skills to public employees.
To judge from the program’s dozen graduates, Wisconsin’s state and local government is in good hands.
Their resourcefulness was evident in their final class projects, each designed to benefit a local community or agency. The students made use of cutting-edge management techniques such as lean processes and organizational climate surveys.
Timothy Garczynski, water distribution operations manager for the Milwaukee Water Works, addressed morale issues in the distribution center. He conducted a communications audit that will allow managers to respond to employee concerns.
Edward Gritzner, the administrative lieutenant in the Lake Geneva Police Department, did research on the feasibility of body cameras. He engaged with both officers and the public, and his study gives Lake Geneva officials a solid framework for evaluating this new technology.
Elena Hilby, as deputy clerk in Madison, investigated the city’s processing system for Election Day information. Her project made a compelling case for revamping Madison’s approach.
Tracey Schwalbe, general counsel for the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission, evaluated the process for making decisions about workers’ compensation. Her plan identifies ways to eliminate waste and thus creates value for state citizens.
Talent and integrity
Schwalbe enrolled in the Certified Public Manager program because she wants to be a responsible steward of Wisconsin’s resources. She understands the importance of continuously improving government operations.
“Most public-sector employees bring high levels of talent and integrity to their work to provide Wisconsin taxpayers with valuable services,” Schwalbe says. “They keep the infrastructure of society functioning so others can be safe and do the things they love, like run their businesses, find rewarding work, get a sound education, drive safely on Wisconsin’s roads and enjoy Wisconsin’s natural and cultural resources.”
I’m certain that Schwalbe and her fellow graduates will find creative ways to lead their organizations in a time of tight budgets. With little fanfare, they’ll ensure that Wisconsin government continues to meet our challenges and serve our needs.
Jeffrey S. Russell is the Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning and the Dean of Continuing Studies at UW-Madison. This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.