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.