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Knope of the Week: John Nalbandian, University of Kansas

Posted on October 25, 2013


American City & County Magazine Highlights Knope of the Week

What is the Knope of the Week? It’s ELGL’s way of recognizing an individual or group of individuals who have excelled in promoting the public sector. Recipients may come from the public or private sector and are nominated by ELGL members. Recipients receive an incredible amount of recognition and prizes that we are not at liberty to disclose. The storied history of the award dates back to 2012.

And the winner of the Knope of the Week is………..

John Nalbandian, PhD

Professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas

Connect: LinkedIn

Background Check

John Nalbandian has been a faculty member in public administration at the University of Kansas since 1976, following his doctoral education at the University of Southern California and service in the Army and CIA.

John specializes in human resources management, having co-authored a text now in its sixth edition. John developed an interest in local government after joining the program at KU, and he has taught every full time MPA student specializing in local government since his arrival at KU. John has developed special relationships with MPA alumni, and he frequently is invited to work with local government officials throughout the United States.

He regularly works in executive development programs at the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina. He also has presented his work in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. John is the recipient of numerous national awards and recognition from KU for his teaching, research, and service.

In addition to his academic accomplishments, John served on the Lawrence city council for eight years, including two terms as the council’s mayor. John has chaired the board of trustees for the public library in Lawrence and also serves presently as board member of the Willow Domestic Violence Center. John’s present research interests focus on contemporary trends in local government and the relationships between the arenas of politics and administration.

Knope Worthy Accomplishments

Listed above is just the beginning of Professor Nalbandian’s accomplishments in public administration, and now, he can add one more accomplishment — inaugural presenter for the Midwest ELGL chapter. Unfortunately, we don’t have a trophy or large sum of money to reward him with, but we do have our sincerest thanks to provide him.

If you missed the webinar, here’s a refresher – Webinar: Politics vs. Administration with John Nalbandian, University of Kansas. And now, let’s hear the takeaways from those who tuned into the webinar.

Nathan Koetje, City of Damascus, Communications & Public Involvement

When speaking about what is necessary for a functioning government, Dr. Nalbandian said, “consensus on values is more important than form.”  There is an opportunity, especially at the local level, to educate elected leaders about how the four primary political values (representation, efficiency, social equity, and individual rights) relate to efficacy. If we only do new councilor orientation we have stopped short.

Ben McCready, Rock Island Assistant to the City Manager

  • The connection between politics (what we ought to do) and administration (how we should go about it) has become wider and increasingly difficult to bridge.
  • We use the same language (politics and administration) but are speaking a different language.
  • Politics is a narrative, who we were, who we are, what we aspire to become.
  • People are not resistant to change, they are resistant to loss.
  • The politics of divide and conquer are not effective at the local level, because the development of a community is based on inclusion.
  • Every department head has to think like a city manager and be willing to enter the gap between politics and administration.
  • Other entities enter the gap, but are not capable of respecting all values in the same way as government.

John McCarter, City of Novi (MI) and Oakland University MPA

Through our MPAs we’ve all learned about the political-administrative dichotomy but the “gap” managers have to work in is often over looked. Professor Nalbandian did a great job illustrating our role as managers to bridge that gap. I also really liked how he responsiveness as a math equation; Responsiveness = Representation /Participation + Efficiency/Professionalism + Social Equity + Individual Rights. when you think about the concept of responsiveness this way you, you can see it as the sum of its parts; each playing a role. Thank you for a very well thought out presentation.

Previous Winner: Governing Magazine

Supplemental Reading

From left, Shade Little, husband of Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little; Danny Anderson, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at KU; John Nalbandian, professor of public administration at KU; and Rick Ginsberg, dean of the school of education, are pictured in front Strong Hall. The photo is featured in the 2011 Red Shoe calendar that raises money for The Willow Domestic Violence Center.

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