Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for January 15th, 2009

EPA’s remarkable Marcus Peacock “On Change”

with 2 comments

Marcus Peacock

Marcus Peacock

NOTE: This item was updated below to include the link to my conversation with EPA’s Marcus Peacock.

I’m way backed up on posts — yesterday was busy with events, so I’m behind, but…

Transition is a fascinating time in Washington. Regardless of party, many of the political appointees become friends. There are a number of people who I am very sad to see go because I have so much respect for them and the work that they do — and the work that they have done. And most of the people who come into government — again, regardless of party, and even regardless of whether one really agrees with them — most people come because they believe in the mission.

Two people in particularly deserve special attention.

One of them is EPA CIO Molly O’Neill. (EPA has as a really remarkable track record with CIOs — you may remember Al Pesachowitz back in the 1990s, and Kim Nelson, now at Microsoft, and now O’Neill.) O’Neill has done remarkable work at EPA and, more importantly and more difficult, has created a culture where people feel free to be creative and to innovate. The all-to-often-spoken phrase — “That’s not the we have done it” — is verboten in the halls of EPA.

The other is EPA’s deputy administrator Marcus Peacock. While I adore O’Neill, she had some help — Marcus Peacock. Peacock is a remarkable leader. He was a guy who has been talking — and leading — government performance for more than a decade. I was hanging out with some people from EPA last night and they were telling me about the creation of EPA’s first blog — Peacock was the first government official to host a public blog. Peacock got push back — this isn’t the way EPA does business — but he gently pushed, and in many ways, Peacock has done more for shifting the conversation about government management then anybody else. (Peacock is the person who spearheaded the creation of OMB’s PART — the performance assessment rating tool — creating a way to actually assess performance.) I should also note that Peacock is deeply respected in the halls of EPA — and elsewhere — by the career workforce and political appointees.

So I will be very disappointed that Peacock will no longer be part of the government. UPDATE: And I am thrilled that today — Friday — on his final “real” day as the EPA deputy administrator, Peacock will be on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris.

And Peacock has a final post on EPA’s blog today headlined “On Change.” A caveat: I don’t usually pull items in total because the Web is about links — and good work deserves traffic. But I think Peacock’s words are so delightful, that I hope you will read them… and be inspired by them… and then click on the link as your way of showing support for his sentiments.

On Change

Marcus Peacock is EPA’s Deputy Administrator.

My mother was born two weeks before Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. She has witnessed amazing changes in her life: the advent of air transportation, the proliferation of television, the near eradication of scourges like small pox and polio, men walking on the moon, theinternet . Yet when I asked her how she felt about these changes, I did not get the response I expected. She shrugged. “Yes, things have improved a lot.” That was it.

Deep in middle age, I now understand that answer. The time scale our brains work with is easily swamped by the broader march of technology. After a dash of initial wonder, we just assimilate advances and move on. A few decades ago, every Christmas Day my family would crowd around a phone in our house and have hurried static-filled ‘long distance’ conversations with relatives in other lands. Two weeks ago one of my kids got a call from a friend. My daughter was walking in the woods. Her friend was sitting in a cafe in Florence, Italy. This does not amaze them. It no longer amazes me. In fact, I can’t really remember how we got to this place. It just happened.

Today the Administrator signed a proposed rule modifying how EPA determines the Air Quality Index for fine particle pollution. As proposals go, it is not terribly notable. And yet . . . this will be the first proposed rule issued by a federal agency that will allow the public to comment on the rule using a blog. The blog will be open from March 2 to March 11 which corresponds to public hearings on the proposal. Stay tuned toGreenversations for more information on how to participate. Mark it as a small step on the way to what I believe will be a dramatic change in the way the federal government crafts rules and regulations. A small step, but one that, with others, will accumulate to the point where the government will be able to produce better quality rules much more quickly than in the past.

We live in the Information Age. It is sweeping over us like advancing waves on a beach. Federal agencies can either seize the tools that are coming from this change or just let the tide pick us up and deposit us in a new place. EPA is choosing to seize the day. We are not doing this because we want to amaze people with whiz-bang Web 2.0 technology. We do this because when someone in the future is asked about the changes they have seen in the environment, they will just shrug their shoulders and say, “Yes, things have improved a lot.”

One of the great parts of my job — and there are many — is that I get to meet and talk to smart people who care — passionately — about what they do… I have asked Marcus to stay in touch. I hope he does. It has been a real pleasure getting to know him better.

UPDATE: On Friday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke with Peacock and O’Neill about this initiative. You can hear that conversation here.

You can read Peacock’s full bio after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

January 15, 2009 at 2:28 PM