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41 Years and Counting

The Public Manager first appeared in spring 1972 as The Bureaucrat, a quarterly journal launched by the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. The inaugural issue, a modest 8½- by 5½-inch pamphlet, had a bright yellow-and-red cover that advertised the price of $2. At 112 pages of cramped 8-point type, it included the usual suspects that still fill the journal’s pages: forums, book reviews, professional development, and humor. 

The first forum focused on “Reorganizing the Federal Executive Branch,” quoting President Nixon’s 1971 State of the Union message, in which he asserted “Most Americans today are simply fed up with government at all levels.” Series Editor Carl W. Stenberg introduced the public policy forum, noting, “President Nixon proposed consolidation around broad purposes and goals … [that] would involve nothing less than the systematic reorganization of a large portion of the Federal Executive Branch around basic goals relating to the purposes of government in our society, and focusing attention on the results of departmental efforts to achieve these objectives.” Half of the journal was devoted to this radical notion. More than 35 years later, reorganizations and results continue to provoke articles.

In 1980, The Bureaucrat’s membership added a subtitle to its name, identifying it as The Journal for Public Managers. As Thomas J. Novotny, journal publisher from 1988–2004, noted years later, “That represented our understanding of the niche we had carved for ourselves.” In 1982, the journal was redesigned and the cover no longer challenged the optic nerves.

From the beginning, the journal encouraged readers to respond to the points of view expressed in the articles. In the tenth anniversary issue, Thomas D. Lynch, the journal’s first editor, stated in a prominent location on the inside cover, “I strongly believe that an active exchange of controversial views affecting public managers should be published in a professional journal.” Lynch reflected in an anniversary article that the journal had been successful to date because “there was and remains a substantial body of people who are truly interested in receiving a high level professional journal devoted to the public manager; and there was and remains a considerable number of extremely talented individuals who are willing to donate their time and talent to advancing professional public management.”

The Bureaucrat transformed again in 1992 when the membership renamed it The Public Manager, with the subtitle, The New Bureaucrat  Mr. Novotny promised, “We will continue to promote, espouse, and defend service to the public.” He vowed to continue his trademark as editor, “Yes, we will maintain our irreverent strain. We take our work seriously, but not ourselves.” In 2000, the journal’s subtitle changed to “The Quarterly for Practitioners” to reflect its evolving focus.

In 1998, Mr. Novotny handed over the reins of editor to Paul Weiss, while maintaining his role as publisher. Under Mr. Weiss’s editorial leadership, the journal reached out to new authors and invited closer collaboration with federal government officials. In 2000, Warren Master took over as editor.

Mr. Novotny was associated with the journal for nearly all of its history, and his passing in April 2004 marked the end of an era. Editor Warren Master, in collaboration with the Board of Directors, agreed that the journal and its parent nonprofit corporation, The Bureaucrat, Inc., would become a wholly owned affiliate of LMI, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving public-sector management. LMI is chartered to bring the most advanced and creative solutions to all aspects of government management problems and challenges. With motivations and interests so closely aligned, Editor Warren Master and the Board of Directors saw that the new affiliation presented an opportunity to further the interests of both organizations. 

The affiliation became official in fall 2004. Harry Featherstone of LMI succeeded Mr. Novotny as publisher. Since then, The Public Manager has benefited from the synergy of the two organizations but, as an affiliated activity, retains its ability to independently publish information of interest to all public-sector managers.

Publisher Carrie Blustin and Editor Warren Master, assisted by an active and engaged Board of Directors and reconstituted Board of Editors, have introduced numerous changes to the journal. LMI’s design team gave the The Public Manager an attractive facelift. Beginning with the spring 2008 edition, the journal will be published in full color and the size of the journal will increase by 50 percent to 96 pages. Additional advertising by carefully selected supporters of public administration helped to facilitate this expansion, which will include more in-depth forums and coverage of state, local, nonprofit, and international best practices. The journal’s subscription base now includes more than 10,000 members of the public administration community.

With LMI’s support, the journal’s revamped Web site now includes a private members area with access to an electronic version of the journal as well as more than 2,500 archived articles from past issues. The public area contains book reviews, highlights and abstracts from the current issue, links to original works from which articles have been excerpted, and links to the journal’s affiliates. The affiliates are organizations that share the view that public service remains one of the noblest of callings and are committed to ensuring that our leaders are well prepared. The Public Manager constantly seeks opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships with such organizations, particularly where there are opportunities to promote common long-term objectives to enhance the professional knowledge and expertise of public-service professionals.

As part of its effort to promote dialogue within the public administration community, The Public Manager and the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) will sponsor an inaugural practitioner conference in Baltimore July 28–29, 2008. This conference will be unique in that it will focus on the needs and interests of practitioners at all levels of government, nonprofit managers, and applied academics. In addition, The Public Manager is planning an annual series of forums, symposia, seminars, and workshops in collaboration with other like-minded organizations, including ASPA’s National Capital Area Chapter, which established the journal over 35 years ago. Check the Web site for more details about this new program.

The Public Manager continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of its readers and to pursue new opportunities to engage practitioners within the public administration community at the federal, state, local, nonprofit, and international levels. In September 2015, the quarterly journal transitioned to a monthly digital magazine. Roxy Torres is the publisher.  

Despite the many changes over the years, the journal remains true to its founding philosophy, as expressed in 1972 by Thomas D. Lynch, the first editor:

Public administrators are a significant group in our society and their understanding and active involvement in public policy issues we believe, is an important aspect of responsive and responsible government. The Bureaucrat provides the forum for our profession to confront these issues….The Bureaucrat will assist the decision-making process by raising public policy questions, analyzing the implications, and suggestion possible alternative solutions for considerations.

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