One of the most persistent complaints about government is usually voiced as: "Why can't they run it more like a business?" If early reports coming out of Gov.-elect Mike Leavitt's transition plans are any indication, Utahns may be about to discover if that approach really works.
Leavitt said this week he wants a more "hands on" style of governance in which he functions more like a corporate chief executive officer. Under this system, the 15 major state department heads will report directly to the governor instead of to policy advisers.In addition, the staffs of the governor and lieutenant governor will be merged into a single entity to handle the work for both offices. And the Office of Planning and Budget, a separate agency in Gov. Norm Bangerter's administration, will also become part of the governor's office.
Along with all of this, Leavitt said this week he wants a more open administration that offers access to ordinary citizens. To this end, he plans more frequent press conferences and is talking about hold a governor's version of a call-in talk show, either on television or radio.
Clearly, the new governor plans to gather the reins of government more closely into his own hands and play a more active role in the day-to-day administrative affairs of the state. Whether that will be more effective than past practices or whether it might produce an administrative bottleneck at the governor's office remains to be seen.
There are dangers in one person trying to do too much. State government is large, complex, far-flung and represents many often-conflicting interests. If every administrative detail has to be filtered through the boss or have his personal stamp on it, the whole process might slow down to a crawl. After all, there are only so many hours in a day and one of the key ingredients in leadership is knowing how to delegate responsibility and authority.
Leavitt is youthful and vigorous. His CEO style may work out just fine. Only time will tell. However, if it causes problems, one result may be that people will stop comparing the running of government with the running of a business. It may be that they are too different to handle in exactly the same way.