First Advisor

Phillip Copper

Term of Graduation

Summer 2009

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Administration and Policy


Public Administration




Municipal government, Local government, Public administration, Management -- Political aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource, (2, ix, 290 pages)


Due to the retirement of the baby boom generation, many individuals, in a relatively short period of time, will need to be trained and educated to step into local government senior leadership positions. Ideally, the education and training of this new leadership cadre should be guided by a well known and proven body of theory that helps us understand the competencies the next generation of public service need to possess in order to be effective in their work. The purpose of this research is to assess whether such a body of work exists and, if so, whether it is successfully addresses the challenges faced by the next generation of senior public service leaders. The study uses a deductive process to identify important local government management competencies that are not supported by available public administration theory. First, the critical competencies needed by city managers are identified using existing data, supplemented by new data resulting from a Delphi study and a panel of top practitioners and scholars in the field. Second, these competencies are compared to the content of curricula of Master of Public Administration programs with a concentration in local government. Finally, critical competencies are evaluated against available theory as found in the public administration academic literature.

This analysis identifies 118 individual competencies important to effective local government management. The majority of these competencies are similar to those that are important to business and federal agency managers. MPA programs with a concentration in local government provide good coverage of competencies associated with administration, legal/institutional systems, and technical/analytical skills. There is less coverage of competencies associated with ethics, interpersonal communications, human relations, leadership, group processes, and communitybuilding. Academic journals address theory supporting some of the competencies that receive little coverage by professional degree programs, but a sample of 3,811 articles yielded only fifty-three addressing competencies directly relating to senior level management. These findings serve not only as a guideline for research and education, but ultimately to improved management of local governments.


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