Civil servants are the doers of the People's business. Governor Brownback then and President Trump now have both led to disregarding, making counterproductive changes, and politicizing the civil service system. Not only has this brought very negative results immediately, but even more serious damage is happening as time goes on. Here are several examples:
Governor Brownback changed Kansas law so that if a civil service position was vacated for whatever reason, the replacement could be a direct political appointment. This law was used to reclassify many state employees away from career civil service positions with employment rights, to essentially politically-appointed positions who could be fired at any time for any reason. Combined with this action is the fact that during the Brownback years, Kansas had the highest exit rate of millennials leaving the state with one exception. Now Governor Kelly is dealing with a workforce where many of the Brownback hires are not the type of public servants needed. Attracting new and bright talent to work in that environment will take time and not be easy. In the meantime, government efficiency and effectiveness has and will continue to suffer.
Under the Brownback Administration, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) was moved from Topeka to Manhattan. Something K-State and Manhattan liked, but makes very little sense in terms of good government. KDA works closely with several other agencies on a regular basis in Topeka, making it now more difficult to coordinate and work together to better serve the public’s interests. The likely motivation for relocation was to shift from civil service jobs to political appointees. Moving over time can lead to significant turnover, allowing positions in the agency to be replaced by whomever the administration wants. This does not mean that everyone hired isn’t very qualified, but it opens the gate for strictly political hires to be made.
Recently, President Trump, with 30 days notice, ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move from the Washington D.C. area to Kansas City with many employees declining to relocate. There have been delays to this plan, I suspect because the administration has started to hit roadblocks in the process of making such a massive change so quickly. Now another agency, most of the Bureau of Land Management within the Interior Department, has been forced to move to Colorado. While the results of these moves will be similar to Kansas, I suspect in these federal cases the strategy is more a hasty move to cut government without regard to what is lost. Plus, it is the opportunity to employ some very likely lesser qualified personnel or sycophants who are willing to validate the President’s policy decisions on issues like climate change and others. Our government should employ real scientists, and it should treat them with the respect they deserve and give them the space to follow the science and the facts wherever they lead in order to serve our interests as a state and country.
President Trump has been totally irresponsible in the way he has staffed up his administration. Vacancies and totally unqualified folks dominate the Trump administration. Turnover is the worst in my memory. Without a doubt this is the worst Presidential cabinet in history. They come and go so fast that keeping track of who is on the Cabinet is almost impossible. He has made some very good appointments, but they either get fired or worn out dealing with the chaos. The quality workforce has been hollowed out in many agencies, and this causes problems for the level of service and (in the case of the Department of State, Defense, and others) our national security. It will be a long path back to the return of a highly qualified federal civil service.
To anyone who says what’s the big deal: I guess whether government does it’s job well, serves the people with efficiency, and carries out their agency’s mission with purpose, makes no difference to you. I am confident that those who read my blog do not fit that mold. But I do suspect you need to be pushed a little to openly defend the value of a quality civil service system. Would anyone want private sector business to operate ineffectively? High turnover, incompetence, and much higher overhead, is not the direction for business success. Same is true with government.