Public Service Innovators -- Chris Riback (MPP 1992) and Taegan Goddard (MPP 1992): Working for Better Government

May 25, 2001
Lory Hough

MPP 1992 graduates Taegan Goddard and Chris Riback weren't surprised when an ABC News poll revealed that a majority of Americans would rather spend a week in jail than be president of the country for four years. Goddard, a policy advisor for a U.S. senator,

governor, and state treasurer and Riback, an investigative reporter, had witnessed firsthand the the frustrations of the public. Yet as they watched more and more Kennedy School students reject jobs in government in favor of the private sector, they came to the conclusion that something needed to be done.

So in 1998, the pair co-authored a book called You Won - Now What? How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a how-to manual of sorts for newly elected or appointed officials and the thousands of staffers they bring with them.

As the authors point out in the book, the "government of novices" put into power on election day faces unique challenges because many of these rookie politicians don't actually know how to fix government's problems as promised on the campaign trail. As a result, many turn to fad, private-sector management slogans like "total quality management" or "reinventing government" that ultimately work better as bumper stickers than as government guides.

Management fads aren't the answer, they say. "Only through better governing will America get better government. Instead of embracing the next hot management fad, public officials must look in the mirror for answers," says Goddard. "They must admit that public service is unlike any other job they've held. They must learn how to govern."

The two have since left the public sector - Goddard is now chief operating officer of PIMCO Equity Advisors in New York and Riback heads up CitiMedia, the content arm of Citigroup's e-commerce division. Still, with a new Web site devoted to politics (www.politicalinsider.com) they remain interested in politics and public service.

"Public service can be a valuable part of every American's life. Whether as a full-time elected official, part-time appointed commission member, or simply as an informed voter, the average citizen can make a difference in his or her community," Riback says, pointing out that elected and appointed positions in government were never intended as permanent jobs.

"America's democracy was designed to allow citizens to take over their government after regular elections. The ruling class was not meant to be permanent," says Goddard. "While we have great desire to serve in public life in the future, this is our opportunity to be part of the governed. It will only make us better at governing in the future."

To connect to the book's Web site, go to http://youwon-nowwhat.com

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