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Friday, December 1, 2023
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The Next Administration Could Change Things

Dear Source:
Over one's lifetime most of us attempt to better ourselves. As we get older many of us are often rewarded in our professional lives with more responsibilities. Some of us move up the ladder of success and receive jobs with fancy titles with enhanced authority (hopefully) for the hard work, trust, experience and demonstrated proof of getting the job done. While there are some that have worked to get into positions of authority; those positions are actually a façade (a front). Many do not have real power; in actuality, most either have no legitimate power at all or chose to not exercise it. Many appear to only have been given the fancy title without real operational or organizational authority. Sadly, this situation appears to be frequently present in government. Over the years, my experience has been that when interacting with many of those which hold the middle management titles of deputy commissioner or director, or associate director etc., few have any true authority with which to make decisions; or at least this appears to be the case.
It is unclear to me why most commissioners and some assistant commissioners have to be involved in almost every decision, no matter how small. In attempting to make sense of why no one in the organization has any true authority, I have frantically look for answers. Is it because they are told that they cannot make decisions or is it because they are frightened of making the wrong decision and subsequent repercussions? Are they actually not qualified to make decisions for the organization? If not, why are they there?
If an organization like Department of Planning and Natural Resources has ten managers that are making $60K a year or more; the government could save over 1/2 million dollars a year by getting rid of this level of management, since this level is not, or is not willing to actually manage? This is just one department; however, if we were to look inside of many of our departments and agencies that are doing this, think of the potential savings. Think of the customer frustration that can be eliminated because now we have a direct path to the one decision makers; versus going through the many levels of individuals that have no authority to make decisions in the first place. The customers will not incur any additional wait time as we have always had to wait for the one decision maker to make the decision anyway. Truth be told, it may be less time expended as we now have eliminated the time it takes for the middle managers to interface with us.
My personal experiences of individuals in government departments that were scared to death to make a decision, without the blessing of a commissioner or assistant commission has occurred within more than just one department; this appears to be a pattern government-wide. For instance, individuals in both Department of Planning and Natural Resources and Government Development Bank who "titles" associated with authority have refused or are not allowed to actually use their authority. I have long heard of similar stories in other departments such as the Departments of Finance, Property and Procurement, and Public Works. Although many of us may not be able to relate to my experiences, many may wonder what is the solution to this unproductive and time wasting practice?
I personally do not have a solution that will change how we manage our departments and agencies overnight, it is my hope the next governor chooses a cabinet that his or she has full confidence in. One that is not bottlenecked because decisions can only be made by one/two individual(s). I trust that the next governor will select and place individuals of senior managers in the positions of middle management (deputy Commissioners Associate and directors etc.) that are highly qualified and that are allow to assist in leading our government toward providing and delivering better services to the people of this Territory.
I hope we again will not end up with positions filled with individuals that do not have the confidence of those that placed them to make basic day-to-day operational decisions. I hope that this time managers that are selected to run the operations of government are actually allowed to get on with the business of running the government.
I am not naive enough to believe that individuals that work in campaigns will not receive political favors and or positions; I just hope that a little more thought will go into where these individuals will be placed. I wish for managers that both lead and manage and with a philosophy of "lead follow, or get out the way". It is my hope this new Administration will place individuals in positions for which they are qualified and who have the capacity and desire to perform without every moved having to be sanctioned by a cabinet-level employee. I wish for commissioners and assistant commissioners that are more accessible to the Public, and if not, are at least a phone call away from their non-decision making employees so when that the employee calls a decision makers, a decision can be made. It is my hope that the new Administration will put the right individuals in the right positions to help our government to be about the business of this Territory.
There is a saying that insanity is when we continue to do the same thing time and time again expecting different results. Although the government is the public sector, the government is also a business, and our business to provide quality and timely services to the people within this Territory.
Our government needs to move away from the antiquated mind-set that government services have to be poor, of low quality, cumbersome, and slow. This is a terrible myth that our government has hung onto for far too many years. We do not have to live down to that expectation. Clearly, how we have run our government in the past has not gotten the Territory where it needs to be in the 21st century. Maybe, just maybe, if we change our behavior, we will get different results! The choice to change is ours, so when we change Administration's this year let's hope we are also changing how we operate as a government.
Lawrence Boschulte
St. Thomas

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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