Resh wins ASPA Public Administration Research Section’s Book of the Year award

March 10, 2017

By Matthew Kredell

USC Price School of Public Policy Assistant Professor William Resh has been named co-winner of the 2015 Book of the Year award by the American Society of Public Administration (ASPA) Section of Public Administration Research for his publication, Rethinking the Administrative Presidency: Trust, Intellectual Capital, and Appointee-Careerist Relations in the George W. Bush Administration.

The book takes a rare look at the President as the nation’s chief executive, exploring appointee-careerist relations in the federal executive branch by systematically testing the premise that the trust established at the executive levels of federal agencies is critical to achieving performance and advancing the President’s agenda.

Resh’s research that led to the book began with the dissertation paper of the same name completed to earn his doctoral degree at American University’s School of Public Affairs in 2011.

“For such an important part of my life and work to be recognized by my academic peers outside the university is really remarkable to me personally,” Resh said.

Lessons in leadership

On average, a career executive in the federal government has a tenure of 18 years as opposed to under two years for a presidential appointee. In that short period of time, it’s very difficult for appointees to establish good working relationships without being somewhat deferential to the people who represent that institution and will continue doing so long after they go.

“A very common problem within Washington, D.C., is the relationship that develops between career bureaucrats and political appointees,” Resh said. “A political appointee cannot just come into the organization and impose formal mechanisms of control and think he or she is going to advance the President’s prerogatives.”

Resh uses survey data to demonstrate how Presidential agendas find better outcomes when appointees are able to establish a trust with top career bureaucrats that trickles down within the organization.

Resh will be in Atlanta on March 20 to receive a plaque at the ASPA National Conference. He also won an ASPA award last year for best paper by an academic.

Impactful research

In recognizing the work, the Section of Public Administration Research Award Committee noted how the book offers several significant contributions, including: opening up analysis of the Presidency through the lens of organizational behavior; applying varied quantitative methods to examine the relationships between elected and appointed officials; identifying the trickle-down effect of political oversight; exploring the role of trust; and framing how lack of trust impacts public sector performance and innovation.

Resh was nominated for the award by Shui Yan Tang, the Frances R. and John J. Duggan Professor in Public Administration at USC Price, and Resh’s dissertation advisor at American University, Professor Emeritus Robert Durant.

“The book is highly relevant to today’s political atmosphere, which is premised on pushing political agendas with little regard to how intellectual capital embedded in the civil service may help further political objectives, regardless of their partisan origins,” Tang wrote in his nomination letter. “Professor Resh’s book provides an invaluable reminder about the importance of cultivating politics and administration interfaces that are conducive to trust building and the proper utilizing of intellectual capital embedded in our administrative agencies.”

Resh expects to further pursue this topic in future publications.

“This work is a keystone of my general research agenda, so I will be continuing this exploration,” Resh said. It’s never a boring topic, despite what people might think about bureaucracy and bureaucrats. It’s central to our general questions about institutions and how they operate.”