I've just returned from Governing's annual Managing Performance conference. A few things stood out from the last day.
A session on Hurricane Katrina revealed some behind-the-scenes stories about managing the disaster. Bill Leighty, who is Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's chief of staff, was loaned out for two weeks to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to help run the rescue efforts. The first thing Leighty learned about FEMA was that the agency can take requests a bit too literally. Early on, he asked FEMA for 500 cots for firefighters. "We got the 500 cots," Leighty said. "But that is all we got. We didn't get any pillows or blankets, nothing else."
Leighty said he was troubled by how much politics slowed down decisive action. He said local, state and federal officials spent hours debating whether or not the National Guard should remain under state control. "The hours and hours of political discussions we had while people were stuck on roofs was disgusting," Leighty said.
Another standout was Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, pictured above. Those rumors you've heard about her magnetism and charm? All true. The former teen beauty queen didn't so much deliver a speech as lead an Oprah-style discussion in the aisles. Despite the dry topic--how her state eliminated a $4 billion budget deficit--all the audience could talk about afterward was Granholm's charisma, how well she took a hold of the room and held its rapt attention. She was articulate, funny and engaging. If some Republicans wish a native Austrian could run for president, then surely Democrats must be upset that Granholm was born in Canada.
Visit Gov. Granholm's Web site to listen to her weekly radio address on "Fiscal Responsibility." It expands and mirrors comments made in her speech to Governing.
For other highlights from the two-day conference, click here.