Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Partnership for Public Service

Dennis Haysbert, Ray Kelly, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Tom Brokaw, and Sam Heyman at The Partnership for Public Service Gala thi past Monday night.
by Jaclyn Paré

12.13.06 — Sam Heyman remembers a time when the best and the brightest considered government service a glorious pursuit. In 1963 a third of his graduating class from Harvard Law School rode into Washington like knights errant, he among them. Today only about 3% of newly minted Harvard lawyers take government jobs. Heyman’s quest is to reverse that trend across the country and remake government into a beacon for our ablest minds.

Heyman’s Excalibur: the Partnership for Public Service, an idea he first underwrote in 2001 with $25 million and which has since drawn generous support from the likes of Julian Robertson, Donald Newhouse, Carl Icahn, Leonard Lauder, and the Ford Foundation, to name but a few.

Senator Joseph Lieberman receiving the Theodore Roosevelt Award from New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Monday night.
Monday evening at the Partnership’s fifth anniversary gala at Cipriani, Heyman announced plans to donate another $20 million. Honorees were government careerist Senator Joseph Lieberman and—in a stroke of genius—television’s first African American president of the United States, the beloved David Palmer (a.k.a. Dennis Haysbert) of the show 24..

Heyman’s mission could not be timelier. Troubling statistic #1: Only 3% of the federal workforce is younger than 25. Even more alarming: Of the 1.9 million people currently serving in the federal government, close to half are eligible to retire by 2010 – including 60% of senior managers. That amounts to a potential brain drain of devastating proportions. “No company could survive that,” says Heyman, Chairman of International Specialty Products. As a corporate raider from the 1980s who built his fortune in real estate, building products, and specialty chemicals, Heyman speaks with authority on the subject of upheaval.

But even for a master rebuilder, turning Washington back into Camelot is a daunting task. While in corporate America the head of human resources is considered one of the most important executive positions, that concept is completely foreign to Washington. “The government hasn’t done a great job of selling itself,” says Heyman. Among the many deterrents: People don’t have a clue what jobs are available; it can take up to a year to get hired; and the pay is pitiful compared to the private sector.

Enter the Partnership for Public Service, which since its inception has tried to tackle the problem from several fronts, in Congress, in academia, and directly inside the bureaucracy. On the recruiting end, for example, the Partnership has created a network of 600 universities and 60 government agencies to link employee prospects with job opportunities. And here’s one straight from the annals of best motivational practices: The Partnership publishes a booklet on the best places to work in Washington based on interviews with 150,000 federal employees. Currently the most attractive agencies are the Office of Management and Budget and the National Science Foundation. The least: the Small Business Administration and--no surprise here--the Department of Homeland Security.

Sam Heyman and Ira Rennert
Given all the obstacles, how best to win the hearts and minds of college graduates?  It’s a battle that may never be fully won, allows Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, but one certainly worth fighting. “There is no better place to make a powerful difference and gain broad experience than working for the government.” He cites as an example his wife, who is a federal prosecutor: “She has had more jury experience than any lawyer I know.”

Stier makes another refreshing claim: “A lot of people would rather make a difference than make a buck.” A prime example is Michael Masters, a 28-year-old Harvard Law School graduate and recipient of the Heyman Fellowship. Each year about 25 graduates are selected for the fellowship, which helps pay off student loans in exchange for a three-year commitment to government service. Says Masters, who recently joined the prestigious Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, a job that gives young lawyers a chance to start litigating immediately a host of naval-related cases: “I make $28,000 a year, compared to the $145,000 starting salary my friends are making at top New York law firms. But I go to work happy everyday and they do not.”
Atoosa Rubenstein and Ronnie Heyman
Hadassah Lieberman and Sen. Joseph Lieberman
Max Stier, Andrew Cuomo, and Sam Heyman
Sen. Charles Schumer and Tom Brokaw
Samuel Heyman, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Dennis Haysbert