On the Public Record with Jonathan Walters, Governing Magazine

Posted on December 20, 2012

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On the Public Record with Jonathan Walters


Twitter: @governing

About Jonathan Walters

Jonathan Walters is the executive editor for Governing magazine. He has covered state and local public policy and administration, writing on topics ranging from civil service reform to welfare reform. Currently his focus is on public sector management and change management in state and local government, with an emphasis on workforce development and strategic workforce planning.

Besides Governing, Mr. Walters has written for such publications as the Washington Post and USA Today. He is the author of the Pioneer Institute’s White Paper, Toward a High-Performance Workplace; Fixing Civil Service in Massachusetts; and also Is There Life After Civil Service?, published by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government. He is also author of the book Measuring Up; Governing’s Guide to Performance Measurement for Geniuses (and Other Public Managers). He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1977 with a degree in English. He currently resides in Ghent, New York, where he is an active member of the Ghent Volunteer Fire Company and where he also serves as co-chairman of the Ghent Planning Board.

ELGL on Jonathan Wallace

For government junkies Governing magazine is our Sports Illustrated. The magazine is at the forefront in addressing hot topics and emerging issues in municipal government. A major contributor to Governing’s continued success is executive editor Jonathan Walters. Our interview with Jonathan highlights his professional successes, a hypothetical performance measurement duel with David Ammons, and a look into his iPod.

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWgLOfExBqw&w=560&h=315]

Top three favorite local government stories that you have covered:

  • Story coming out in January on how localities are (or aren’t) dealing with rapidly aging population
  • Did a story on “visioning” exercises a while back that was a lot of fun. Basically was a send up of the practice
  • Did another story a while back on counties and the role of counties in the layer cake of American government, essentially arguing that they’re the government of the future

Who would win a performance measurement duel between you and David Ammons?download

David wins on theory; I win on practice.

Beside Governing, what other publications do you follow to keep track of municipal affairs?

  • On line: both the Governing’s daily blast but also GovManagement Daily, sponsored by ASPA and written/compiled by John Martin, former staff editor for Governing, now freelances for us.
  • Our local radio station (WAMC) does outstanding state, regional, local coverage

Grade local government on their use of social media.

All over the map. There are some places doing some really interesting work around crowd sourcing — Boston probably leads the pack .

You’ve had a distinguished career of more than 30 years, that said, write a headline that best describes your work.

 Actually Making a Living Covering the Most Important Beat in the Country

Give us a peek into what’s playing on your iPod.

  • New Cowboy Junkies stuff
  • Father John Misty
  • Gram Parsons
  • Eilen Jewell…alt country/rockability/blues
  • John Prine
  • The Gourds

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur1N3UyT1lE&w=420&h=315]

Name three local government leaders who stand above the rest in making an impact on their communities.

download (1)Mike Bloomberg is a gimme, Dave Smith (Maricopa County Manager), Ron Sims was excellent while in office….  But it’s an unfair question because there are tons of really strong local gov. execs. I’d say one of most pleasant trends I’ve witnessed since I started with Governing in 1988 is the exponential improvement in the quality of mayors/county execs/managers nationally over that time…

Play librarian and provide our readers with some must read books.

  • Power Broker by Robert Caro 
  • Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch
  • All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
  • The Year of Decision: 1846 by Bernard DeVoto

Which is more fun being chairman of the planning board or president of local volunteer fire company?


See: One Crisis to the Next 

Finally, which level of government do you enjoy covering the most?

Local is where the action is.

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