When the Music Stops: Succession is More than Filling Seats

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State and local governments are handling budget challenges brought on by a major recession and exacerbated by goods- and manufacturing-based taxation systems, increased demands for services, and spiraling costs associated with entitlement programs such as Medicaid. Because personnel expenditures are a large proportion of the budget for any public organization, decision makers must look closely at staff reductions. The aging of the public-sector workforce in addition to anticipated staffing reductions, however, suggests that state and local governments are at a tipping point (Pitt-Catsouphes 2007). These governments already face a dearth of qualified employees who can succeed the estimated 25 percent of the 166.9 million adults in the workforce who will be at least fifty-five or older by 2018 (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009). Without strategic action to address these workforce issues, even well-intended decisions by high-level elected and appointed officials made to address immediate budget shortfalls will strain the capacity of state and local agencies to provide needed services.