This Public Service Recognition Week 2020, join ASPA as we proudly honor public servants on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19. Please take a few minutes to read the words of LeRoy J. Jackson, as he prepares for the challenges he and other city managers will lead us through over the months and years ahead.
I’m a second-generation ASPA member. My father, LeRoy M. Jackson, was a member beginning in the 1950s. He worked in personnel administration and always spoke very highly of ASPA. When I joined ASPA it was partially at his encouragement and partially because it gave me a broad look at public administration. I'm a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, and I've been the city manager of Torrance, California since 1983.
I think public administrators have a true opportunity to make differences, as being a public servant means a lot of things to a lot of people. Most importantly, our citizens see us as public servants: We are bound to commit ourselves to serving them and if you don't have that spirit or desire, you're probably in the wrong profession.
This pandemic has presented us with a fascinating time. While everything has changed outside, and we have effectively shut our City Hall's doors, those in my office have reached out in so many ways to touch our community. Our emergency operations center has been working with hospitals, schools and agencies for months. It has been a powerful image to see how those around you act in a crisis situation over such a short period, including impressively quick decisionmaking.
For instance, in the first days of the virus, grocery stores were so overwhelmed they couldn't make home deliveries. Our city management found seniors who couldn't get out and set up a program, staffed by public servants, called "Torrance Cares 2-Go" to deliver them food. Now, as grocery stores are more able to handle deliveries, that program is beginning to phase out, but the important thing was that we were able to bridge a gap. Meanwhile, we are maintaining the same services citizens have always expected: Trash gets picked up, the police and fire departments are available. The services rendered emphasize the importance of Public Service Recognition Week—there are so many facets of public service that are necessary to our community’s needs.
Now, we're moving into recovery mode. Disaster management at a distance has opened a new set of ideas for how a city can handle emergencies: You don't have to put everyone in a single room to handle coordination. But how do we handle opening our doors? New questions arise around these new challenges including social distancing in building safety and planning, and providing services in this new environment. Torrance is responding well, but recovery now will also include a budget crisis.
My time as a public administrator has been a ride. I've seen my father as a public administrator, I've worked for cities and I've seen quite a bit of government across the wide expanse. I love local government—so close to the people, so directly affected by the people. Even though it can be frustrating when you face challenges, it is rewarding because it's a profession that offers an opportunity to make a difference.
One of the main reasons I support ASPA is because the gathering of other individuals trying to make a difference gives you a broad perspective of our profession. I'm not a conference person and have not participated in any organized way, but I use ASPA's resources constantly. My team reads the information we receive and use it in our decisionmaking. It helps us face a key challenge of public administration: Trying to be efficient, effective, precise—while we respond to a world that is political and may not want to achieve the same ends.
Join my support of ASPA so we can all continue to use its resources and make a difference.