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New Book Examines the Public Bureaucracy

Posted on | November 24, 2010 | Comments Off

Backstage in a Bureaucracy bookcover

What is it like to be in charge of a large public bureaucracy? Top-level state executives set agendas, formulate policies, turn legislative mandates into actions, oversee staff operations, develop and manage budgets, and generally influence (for better or worse) agency performance. Mānoa Professors Susan Chandler and Dick Pratt provide a first-hand day-to-day look at running a large bureaucracy in Backstage in a Bureaucracy: Politics and Public Service.

For eight years Chandler was the director of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Human Services, where she managed more than 2,000 employees. Pratt, a public administration professor, has advised a variety of public and private organizations in Hawaiʻi, the Pacific and Asia.

Chandler candidly shares her experiences as an agency director—from the hiring process to her efforts to bring about change—while Pratt offers his thoughts on what these experiences tell us about the inner workings of government agencies. Their stories—some sad, some funny, but all educational—reveal the challenges and rewards of public service.

The authors conclude with responses to hard questions asked by those most unhappy with bureaucracies and argue that, as frustratingly complex as some of these organizations can be, it is possible to improve them if we have an understanding of what they are like from the inside.

Backstage in a Bureaucracy: Politics and Public Service is available from the UH Press website.

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