Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ballard Administration's Preference for Younger, Inexperienced Managers

Over in the Twitter-universe, WTLC's Amos Brown asks the question why people so young were placed into such important positions within the Ballard administration.  The two city officials, Reggie Walton, 29, was head of the land bank and assistant assistant administrator of Indianapolis' Department of Metropolitan Development while John Hawkins, 27, was senior project manager for the agency.

The tendency of the Ballard administration to place younger, inexperienced people in key leadership positions is a phenomena I've written about before.  This is an April 2009 article I wrote:
The new blog Indianapolis Times reports that Deputy Mayor Nick Weber and Chief of Staff Paul Okeson are on their way out at City Hall.

That is not surprising news. Turnover in those types of positions happen a lot. What I find most disconcerting is the suggestion that current head of City Legal Chris Cotteril, a former Barnes & Thornburg attorney, might be taking over as Chief of Staff.

By far one of the weaker links in the Mayor's Office has been the poor quality of legal work and advice coming from City Legal, which I think is due chiefly to the failure of the Mayor to put into supervisory positions experienced attorneys. Chris Cotterill, had less than five years experience (I don't think any in litigation) when he was appointed head of entire City Legal, which is made up of approximately 27 attorneys, bigger than most law firms in town. Jonathan Mayes, who had two years experience, was appointed head of the litigation division of City Legal. As any trial attorney will tell you, there is no substitute for actual experience when it comes to litigation, even more so when you're supervising other attorneys involved in litigation. Now as someone with 21 1/2 years legal experience, I can't imagine supervising a team of trial attorneys when I only had 2 years of litigation experience.

I've been advised by friends that Cotterill is a good person and have no doubt that is true. But, the Mayor, as someone very inexperienced in politics and inexperience that is showing in virtually every move he makes, desperately needs experienced individuals around him who won't hesitate to give him honest political advice that challenges that of a Bob Grand, Joe Loftus and others who know their way around the 25th Floor and seem more interested in helping their clients than looking out for the Mayor's political future. Chris Cotterill does not appear to be the experienced, unconflicted advisor Mayor Ballard desperately needs. 
Cotterill being too inexperienced for the positions he received in city government is not an aberration.  If you look throughout city government you will often find younger, less experienced management heading up older, far more experienced employees.

Why the preference toward younger, inexperienced people in city management?  Very simple. People who are older and more experienced are going to be more independent-minded and question when they're told to do things that seem unethical or improper.  Younger people, who have only recently stepped onto the career ladder, are not going to question what they're told to do, especially when they're being told to do those things by the political power brokers who got them the job in the first place.


Citizen Kane said...

The two people in question are a direct result of Olgen (I ain't a felon no more) Williams getting in buddies of his sons, etc. Anyone in the CCB will tell you they were shocked when that person became assistant administrator, because they had dealt with him in his former position and were not impressed.

And he wasn't supervised and he didn't supervise anyone (on paper he was and he did, but not in reality).

all hear this said...


Why all the blame on Olgen? One of them was clearly a close special aide to Ballard.

LamLawIndy said...

C'mon, Paul. U imply nefarious motives when the answer is that the youngsters have energy, ambition & a risk-tolerance that older, more experienced managers may not have. Sometimes it's a good fit, sometimes not. I don't think it has anything to do with control.