Citizen Involvement and Performance Management in Special-Purpose Governments


Tanya Heikkila is an assistant professor of public affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Her research interests are comparative institutional analysis and performance, with a focus on natural resource management institutions. She holds a PhD in management from the University of Arizona’s School of Public Administration and Policy.

Kimberley Roussin Isett is an assistant professor of management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She received her PhD in management with a specialization in organization theory from the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on institutional pressures and dynamics in implementing government services, with a particular interest in coordination and collaboration among agencies.


Performance management and citizen participation are being used by local governments to improve government accountability and responsiveness. In some cases, local governments are integrating these two trends. One area of local government in which this trend has not been assessed is special districts. This paper uses data from a study of nine special districts in the state of Texas to fill this void. To assess citizen participation in performance management among the districts, we interviewed district managers, analyzed minutes from governing board meetings, and conducted citizen focus groups in three regions of the state. Our findings suggest that although districts may not yet be in tune with the latest performance management trends, they are making efforts to engage citizens in other ways. We recommend ways that districts can build on these experiences and more effectively incorporate citizens in the development, analysis, and reporting of performance measures.