Pollen recently sat down with Bob Schroeder, former Chief of Staff to Governor Tim Pawlentyto learn more about this little-known but key responsibility.
How would you describe the job?
James Baker was COS to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush – the only person ever tohold that position twice. He described the COS job as “the javelin-catcher, working at theintersection of ‘Four P’s’ – people, process, policy and politics.” I only add that most days youcatch the javelin, but some days the javelin catches you.
What is the scope of the job?
It starts with service to 5.2 million Minnesotans, and the help of about 33,000 employees, a $30billion annual budget and a 24-member Cabinet made up of state agency heads. The work alsoinvolves overseeing 40+ dedicated Governor’s Office staff with responsibilities for policy,budget, appointments, federal affairs, communications/media relations, constituent services,operations, emergency response and “other duties as assigned.” Each of these areas, bythemselves, has significant complexity.
You served on the 2002 transition team to select Cabinet members, and have been involvedin hundreds of public service appointments, ranging from agency heads to the SupremeCourt. What do you look for in public servants?
Appointments are arguably the most important responsibility – finding individuals who are bornto serve the public’s interest through their grant of authority to the Governor. To guide ourwork, Governor Pawlenty adopted a common hiring framework: finding leaders of Character,Competency and Chemistry. We also added a fourth “C”, Capacity, which is the ability tohandle a grueling work lifestyle. But of course the first “C” is the most important.Beyond that, we sought and found individuals with a three dimensional, 360 degree view of theworld – not just Minnesota – who had critical reading, reasoning & writing skills, and the abilityto tell truth to power.
How do you staff a Governor?
Some of the guidelines we developed over time include:-
The Code: never waste the Governor’s time and remember it’s never about you.Sometimes you’re the Chief of Staff, leading a Cabinet meeting and a minute later you’rethe Staff of Chief, holding the Governor’s coffee while he signs an executive order.Either is an honor.-
There are really only three basic reasons to use the Governor’s time: to inform, consult ordecide. Organizing staff time with the Governor into those categories makes for the bestuse of his time.-
If you do have an issue for the Governor to decide, make sure it’s something only he cando. Asking him to rule on issue that another person can do breaks the code.Consequently and by design, this means his decisions are usually a close call – 51/49 –because if it’s 60/40 you’re probably wasting his time.-
Our team excelled at issue management by: framing the policy, defining the decision,gathering data, outlining the politics, generating options with pro/cons and the disciplineto be able to argue all sides. But governing is also an iterative process, especially with