#20 – Seth Higgins on looking at local government through the lens of process

Posted by: on October 14th, 2022

My guest Seth Higgins, is the former Chief Clerk in Elk County Pennsylvania. He now provides consulting services to help local governments navigate the maze of state and local fiscal recovery funds.

In this episode, we return to his early interest in process improvement and talk about what grounds his thinking. He illustrates how it looks when applied to parking, zoning, pension management, union contract negotiations and political processes at the local level. He also shares important nuances about the process of applying for recovery funds.

My name is Nancy Hess, I am the host of this podcast and founder of the Pioneering Change Community for local government managers. If you want to learn more about our community, sign up for our Friday newsletter. The music clips, by the way, are generously provided by my brother Joe Hess.

Connect with Seth Higgins on LinkedIn

Town and County Government Solutions

Haggerty Consulting


4:51 Work on administering allocation of state and local fiscal recovery funds.

10:19 Job in the Air Force as CS Team Load Master

12:25 What does it mean to be more data and process driven? Example of public parking system.

16:53 The Swiss Cheese graphic.

So typically people don’t understand one another’s roles. So really bringing people together to understand those roles as important. And then from there, you can really start to foster a sense of process improvement. Okay, Now we all understand why we are executing this function and the role we each play in executing this function.

22:17 Procurement and Process – particularly onerous for small municipalities or county government

29:51 In Pa, county and local governments are an adjunct of the State.

The state will tell you that you have to do something but not necessarily provide you with the resources to do it and not necessarily care that much about how much of an administrative burden that places on.

31:11 Traditionist or Reformist?

So my approach is that a system is only able to conserve itself by being willing to reform itself. And reform is typically best handled, prudently and in due time.

33:38 Pensions – why taking the “Pension Holiday” is a bad idea.

37:18 Employees typically don’t stay or leave jobs strictly over pay.

What else can you offer employees that perhaps the private sector can’t? And I think there has been a little bit of stagnation historically in the public sector to get creative, but I think the Covid 19 pandemic kind of opened up some possibilities to reimagine the way public sector employees might be able to form their work.

39:29 Political processes

There’s always the tension. I’ve seen, and I’ve seen this more so from folks I went to school with and folks my age where I always caution slightly against thinking that you go into government to be the change agent in and of yourself. The change agent and government are the people’s elected representatives.

… You always need to fight that internal temptation to make changes that exceed. The scope of your public trust.

43:49 Union Contracts … know what the provisions in the contract are actually worth

47:24 More nuanced approach to accessing state and local recovery funds.

About Nancy J. Hess

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