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Richard Clay Wilson Jr.


Richard Clay Wilson Jr. served in local government for 38 years, including 29 years as city manager of Santa Cruz, Calif., retiring in 2010 to write about management in the public sector. He is the author of Rethinking Public Administration: the Case for Management, a revised edition of which was published in January 2016, and The Loma Prieta Earthquake: What One City Learned, published in 1991.

Before becoming assistant city manager in Santa Cruz in 1979 and then city manager in 1981, Wilson served as finance director and assistant city manager in El Cerrito, Calif. He received his bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his master's degree in public administration from the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

Our modern-day well-being is built on both private- and public-sector institutions. We need them to be cost-effective, not inexpensive.
Whether it's employee misbehavior or supervisory abuse that's reported, one thing is for certain: It's worse than it looks.
If a bureaucracy can't function when the boss is gone, something is wrong.
Giving public employees the power to make prudent interpretations would render government more effective and better regarded.
Particularly when it comes to spending, there's nothing like a natural disaster to demonstrate the interdependence of the public and private sectors.
Politicians sometimes demand it, but it has nothing to do with ability. It doesn't serve them or the governments they run.
Some members of Congress are having rough experiences at town hall meetings. For local officials, it's all in a day's work.
There are no easy answers for a career public manager ordered to cut spending with no consideration of its impact.
We ask it to deal with a lot of problems for which it is ill-equipped. We need to narrow its focus and scale up other institutions.
It's not a simple issue, but there are some guiding principles to keep in mind.