#22 – Re-imagining public service with Ben Kafferlin and Lisa Hagberg

Posted by: on December 9th, 2022

Several years ago I met Ben Kafferlin at a County Commissioners conference in Pennsylvania. At the time, he was new to office and not surprisingly, he had some ideas about how to improve the organization structure. He invited me up to Warren County in northwest PA to interview a few key staff and share my thoughts with the Board.

I wanted to find out how this visionary was doing and so we met over coffee along with his county administrator Lisa Hagberg. They are both on our show today.

Some of my favorite moments in our conversation happen when Ben talks about re-examining what government does best.

Another occurs later in the show when he talks about his own quest to understand the role of public servant. Throughout the conversation he weaves a philosophical approach to public service that is rich and inspiring.

Together Ben and Lisa provide a real-time look at challenges in staffing, service delivery and leadership in a small county government. I think conversations like these contain wonderful jumping off points for finding common ground in today’s divisive government environment.

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Lisa Hagberg

Ben Kafferlin


Kafferlin Strategies, Organization Health Assessment

Narrative Economics by Robert J Shiller

How Stella Saved the Farm: A Tale About Making Innovation Happen by Vijay Govindarajan


4:30 Path to County Commissioner

5:50 Should county government be run like a business?

8:30 Path to County Administrator

12:31 Hard to attract people to county government

14.56 Connections and partnerships with the community – role of county government

22:07 Bringing about change – role of data, technology, people and processes

38:51 Organizational Health Assessment

42:50 Coaching to impact performance

45:00 We have lost sight of being public servants. The importance of relationships.

50:45 Final thoughts: the importance of positive stories to light a fire in the community; the future of regional collaboration to address need for specialization and complexity.

About Nancy J. Hess

I help leaders pioneer extraordinary change through high engagement and whole systems approaches that focus on HR and People.