Thursday, March 4, 2010
In Praise of "a Good Bureaucrat" I am tardy in making note of the passing of Larry Osgood, a long-time Idaho state government employee and, in the very best sense of the word, a good bureaucrat. Larry was director of the Division of Public Works - the outfit that manages all the state's buildings and construction - when I served as Chief of Staff to Governor Cecil D. Andrus. Osgood and I had a standing Wednesday morning meeting during those years. He would wheel himself over to the Statehouse - he'd been hurt in an auto accident some years earlier - and give me his briefing on problems and progress in his domain. He was a take charge, no nonsense guy who never sugar coated the problems and, since the state is a big land lord, there are always problems, nor did he take any credit for a project coming in under budget or ahead of schedule. That was what he expected and he'd frequently say: "we're trying to make you look good." As the Idaho Legislature heads into the home stretch, it was nice to see Osgood acknowledged for his contributions. Rep. Maxine Bell made special note of Larry. Too often state employees get the rap for being less than stellar performers, sitting on their suitcases, waiting to retire. That characterization is mostly bull, but it is a perception that lingers. I'll never know how many millions of dollars Larry Osgood supervised during his years as a public works manager, we'll never know what decisions, large and small, he made that saved money, created efficiencies or provided better public access. You can bet he did all that and more. My dad used to talk about the company supply sergeant in the Army who seemed to know where everything was stored and knew where to find everything that was needed. You know the type, the person who keeps the organization running with apparent little effort and usually with little acknowledgement. Good bureaucrats do the same for government and they rarely get their due. Larry Osgood was a good bureaucrat. He made a lot of people look good.