Agency heads must be qualified

About 47 years ago, a man named Lawrence Peter wrote a book called “The Peter Principle.” The main theme is “In any organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise to his or her level of incompetence.” Lately this theory has proven to be true by our own state government, especially in the three agencies where most of our taxpayer money goes — the State Department of Transportation (the Lake Washington bridge project; the “Big Bertha” tunnel fiasco with billions in cost overruns, which every taxpayer in the state will be on the hook for; the I-405 toll lane disaster, and don’t get me started on the Washington state ferry system); DSHS (the continuing failure to protect children and treat the mentally ill with huge lawsuits being won against the state on what seems like a daily occurrence); and the massive and dangerous failure of the state Department of Corrections to protect Washington citizens from felons being released from prison before they should be.

The heads of these agencies should be the most qualified people on the planet. They have huge and complex responsibilities and they owe it to the taxpayers to be able to rise up to meet the challenges (whether inherited or not) that come with their jobs and to be careful stewards of taxpayer money. By the way, these people are well compensated for their responsibilities.

When Gov. Inslee gets over his hissy fit against the members of the state Senate who finally decided to hold the Secretary of Transportation accountable, maybe he can work with our legislative leaders to find men and women who are competent, experienced and have the expertise to be able to head up these very crucial state agencies. These people should not be picked simply because they are loyal to a particular political party or politician. Too much is at stake! I don’t think Gov. Inslee has escaped the “Peter Principle” either. Maybe, come election time, he can experience life in the private sector along with the rest of us.

Mike Shouse


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