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Personnel Reform in the States: A Look at Progress Fifteen Years after the Winter Commission


Lloyd G. Nigro is professor emeritus of public administration and urban studies at Georgia State University. He is the author and coauthor of articles on personnel policy, administrative ethics, and American political thought and public administration. His collaborations with J. Edward Kellough include the 6th edition of The New Public Personnel Administration and Civil Service Reform in the States: Personnel Policy and Politics at the Subnational Level.

J. Edward Kellough is a professor and head of the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia. His research interests are in the field of public personnel management. Recent books include The New Public Personnel Administration (6th ed., Thompson/Wadsworth 2007), with Lloyd G. Nigro and Felix A. Nigro; Civil Service Reform in the States: Politics and Personnel Policy at the Sub-National Level (SUNY Press, 2006), edited with Lloyd G. Nigro; and Understanding Affirmative Action: Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice (Georgetown University Press, 2006).


Trends in states’ civil service reforms since the Winter Commission’s report was published in 1993 are described and evaluated in the context of its recommendations. The authors argue that the commission’s reform agenda relies on a public service bargain that requires public employees, elected officials, and other stakeholders to respect, trust, and support each other’s efforts to serve the public interest. Its recommendations for modernizing state and local personnel systems are discussed and related to the “reinvention” and New Public Management initiatives of the past 20 years. Many of these ideas have been adopted by state governments, but there is no single reform model that has been followed across the states. Some states, such as Georgia and Florida, have engaged in radical reforms that include replacing traditional merit systems with at-will employment models. The general pattern involves decentralization, deregulation, and limitation of employee protections. While many of the management-oriented changes advocated by the Winter Commission are staples of states’ civil service reforms, its emphasis on a “trust and lead” strategy based on public service values, partnership, and leadership in the public interest has not received much attention. In general, objective evaluations of states’ reforms are needed to determine whether their purposes are being achieved.