Political Appointments

Political Appointments

Judith K. Leavitt and Mary W. Chaffee

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

—John F. Kennedy

The wheels of the United States government, as well as state governments, are powered by three groups of employees: those who are elected to office, those who are career employees, and those who are appointed to serve. Each offers an opportunity to influence public policy, but the path to an appointment differs from the others. To attain a political appointment, nurses should be familiar with how the appointment process works, what is needed to be a viable candidate for an appointment, and how to prepare for the process.

What Does It Take to Be A Political Appointee?

Richard Nathan (2009), an authority on political appointments states:

The politics of getting appointed and then being in the public service are intense. One appeal of appointive office is that, unlike elective offices, most people in these jobs are not constantly caught up in political fundraising and campaigning. Still, one cannot succeed in government without being political. A thick skin, the courage to take a stand, and the quickness of wit to defend it are essential qualities for appointive public service. It is exhilarating at the top, but it can also be nerve-racking too. Successful appointed leaders need a keen intuitive feel for the constant bargaining that the American political process requires. Most appointees are qualified and willing to serve when asked. (p. 11)

Then why seek a political appointment and the resulting political pressures? Nathan (2009) identified the following reasons why individuals seek political appointments:

There is a large demand for appointees. Nathan (2009) estimates that 400,000 individuals serve in appointed positions in the federal, state, and local governments. In addition to recognizing their extensive numbers, Nathan tips his hat to their influence: These (appointed) officials … “do the heavy lifting of policymaking and management inside America’s governments and play a significant role as change agents in the nation’s political system. Yet books about American government tend to ignore them and focus instead on elected office holders” (p. 10). David Lewis, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, examined 600 government programs and the 234 managers that ran them (Lewis, 2008). He found that the political appointees were better educated and had excellent records before their appointments. It was the career employees who were better at getting the work done through strategic planning, program design, and financial oversight (Vedantam, 2008). Yet the political appointees may bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and a closer connection with the public to the government workplace.

Getting Ready

Once you decide you are interested in a political appointment, how do you get started? Determine where your interests and experience lie. Is there something you wish to change or a service you desire in your community or state? Do you have the expertise to be competitive for a federal appointment? Is your ultimate goal to seek political office? Will serving in a political or public role enhance future advancement in your career? See Boxes 70-1 and 70-2 for some useful resources.

BOX 70-2

Non-Government Political Appointment Resources

• The National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) (www.nwpc.org). The NWPC is a grassroots membership organization that assists in the identification, recruiting, training, and support of women for elected and appointed office at all levels of government. The NWPC is also the chair of the Coalition for Women’s Appointment, a 60-member organization that assists women who seek presidential and gubernatorial appointments.

• The National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) (www.womensorganizations.org). The NCWO is an organizing council of over 200 women’s organizations representing more than 10 million members. Their goal is to advocate change on many issues of importance to women, including equal employment opportunity, economic equity, media equality, education, job training, women’s health, and reproductive health, as well as the specific concerns of mid-life and older women, girls and young women, women of color, business and professional women, homemakers, and retired women.

• The Brookings Institution (www.brookings.edu). The Brookings Institution provides information for those interested in pursuing a presidential nomination. They have done a number of studies about the appointment process and making government processes more effective.

• The Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) (www.cawp.rutgers.edu). The CAWP is a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, the state university of New Jersey. It is nationally recognized as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about American women’s political participation. It is an excellent source for learning about campaigns, elections, and appointments.

Identify Opportunities

How does a nurse determine where the opportunities are? The types of political appointments run the gamut. For instance, a position on a state board of health affords an opportunity to develop policy, whereas an appointment to an election commission is a mechanism for carrying out state law. Most state nurses associations, specialty organizations, and other professional organizations offer appointment information. At the state level, the state nurses’ association should be able to assist in finding positions as well as guide nominees through the process. Organizations such as the ANA and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) offer help at the federal level. Other sources include nonpartisan organizations such as the League of Women Voters. State and federal health-related coalitions may support nurses for particular positions, and political parties may offer support in some cases. For example, MassGAP is a bipartisan coalition of Massachusetts women’s groups that works to increase the number of women appointed by the governor to senior-level cabinet positions, as agency heads and to state selected authorities and commissions (MassGAP, 2010).

Nurses can seek appointment at many levels, and the appointment doesn’t necessarily have to be focused on health or health care. At the community level, nurses could serve on county health boards, task forces on redevelopment, or a local recreation committee to address policies that expand walking paths and bike trails. Community and county appointments could include the zoning commission, planning commission, hospital boards, boards of education, or councils on aging or economic development. State appointments could be as a public university trustee, a department head, or to a state board or commission. Federal opportunities exist in all federal agencies—both in Washington D.C. as well as in regional offices around the nation (Box 70-3).

BOX 70-3

Finding Opportunities to Serve in an Appointed Status

Although health and health care services appointments may be attractive to nurses, there are many types of appointments, not directly related to health, where nursing expertise can benefit constituents. These include the following:

• Commerce and economic development. Tourism and industrial development appointments could benefit from nursing expertise. A nurse’s knowledge of the health care system could provide industries considering relocation with valuable information about what they can expect for their employees’ health care. In many states, health care is one of the top three industries.

• Conservation. Environmental issues affect the health care of every community. For example, a nurse could provide expertise regarding hazardous waste, the value of clean water systems, or preserving green space.

• Corrections. Nurses’ expert health care knowledge could play a valuable role in policy decisions regarding the health care and education of incarcerated persons. Nurse practitioners provide much of the health care in many of today’s correctional facilities (both public and private).

• Education. Nurses could offer valuable insight on policy decisions regarding school-based health care services and health curricula. A nurse’s knowledge of budgeting and cost-effective management could assist in the budget process.

• Health and human services. A wide variety of appointments exist at the local, state, and federal levels.

• Higher education. Policy decisions are made by state agencies and boards that have authority over colleges and universities.

• Licensure and regulatory boards. State boards of health determine policy regarding the health of the public, including drinking water, restaurant inspections, and health care provider licensure. State boards of nursing regulate the practice of nursing and offer the opportunity to nurses to serve on their governing boards. Some state boards of medicine make decisions regarding the practice of nurse practitioners and may have seats available for a nurse appointee.

• Public safety. Nurses can bring important perspectives to agencies and boards involved in public safety related to domestic violence, gun laws, and motor vehicle safety.

• Transportation. Nurses have seen firsthand the effect of motor vehicle accidents and can be valuable partners in improving safety through political appointments on transportation and highway safety organizations.

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Mar 18, 2017 | Posted by in NURSING | Comments Off on Political Appointments

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