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Caught Between the Dog and the Fireplug, or How to Survive Public Service (Text Teach / Policies) 0th Edition

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0878408474
ISBN-10: 0878408479
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A 'must' for anyone aspiring to a career in public service at any level, Caught Between the Dog And The Fireplug is highly readable yet filled with sensible observations and recommendations."―Wisconsin Bookwatch

"Quite often an academic assumes that a book of anecdotes provides 'war stories' but little insight. This book, however, richly combines real experience with solid advice that would benefit even the most experienced public administrator. Ashworth's book performs the rare feat of providing an amusing look at public service while maintaining the importance of service to the commonweal."―Public Administration Review

Review

"Kenneth Ashworth's letters...are a wonderful, witty, and literate distillation of a distinguished career in public service."―Bill Hobby, former Lieutenant Governor of Texas and former Chancellor of the University of Houston System

"I would recommend this book to any student of public service. Kenneth Ashworth tells it like it is, using a rich collection of experience, anecdotes, and lessons in the real-life workings of our government."―Charles B. Reed, Chancellor, California State University

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Product Details

  • Series: Text Teach / Policies
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press (March 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0878408479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878408474
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kenneth Ashworth ended a long career of confrontation and conflict in the public service as the Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, surviving in that job five governors, ten chairmen, and eleven legislatures. Previously he held somewhat less disputatious jobs as vice chancellor for the University of Texas System and executive vice president of the University of Texas at San Antonio and in other local, state, and federal positions. Then he passed on what he had picked up from his experience to students at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the Texas A&M George Bush School of Public Service. "It matters little that you are afraid if you manage to hide it. You are then at the edge of courage." Jacques Jaujard

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rob Bittick on December 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book for beginning students of public administration or practitioners new to public service. It makes an excellent companion to an introductory textbook in Public Administration or American Government. Ashworth wrote the book as a series of letters to a niece who has decided to enter public service as a career. Each letter covers a theme of public service from an experienced practitioner's viewpoint, and is jam packed with useful advice. I especially found Ashworth's reflections on the political nature of public service useful and insightful.

I have very few problems with this book. One problem is that some of the chapters ramble, just like a real letter would. This makes each chapter very readable and a welcomed break from the dry approach most textbooks take to the subject. This is why it makes an excellent supplementary text to an introductory public administration textbook. However, this approach might make it difficult for students to remember the insights and practical advice of each letter.

Another problem is that a few of Ashworth's reflections are superficial. For example, his chapter on ethics comes across to me as pontification, not unlike a good person who has rarely studied the foundations of ethics, but now ponders such questions after a successful and fulfilling career. I have found that older professors in universities often believe they are qualified to teach ethics merely because they have lived a long time and want to indulge in some personal reflections. They ask questions about ethics without taking a disciplined approach to discover how others have attempted to answer such questions or why they reached their conclusions. Then, such professors make some remarks about their own ethics, leaving the foundational questions unanswered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Naik on November 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
In his book "Caught between the dog and the fireplug", Ashworth has managed to take the sometimes boring subject of public service and made it humorous and anecdotal. Definitely a worthwhile reading for any student of public administration and especially beneficial to me, since I am involved in the educational field of public sector. It gives us real life applications of public administration theories and models used to formulate public policies by the author and behind the scenes look at public policy in the making. Ashworth feels the pressures of being a public servant who is required to serve the needs of the people but is at the same time has to answer to the requests of elected officials who are "never equal" in status to a public servant. It gives credence to theories by many experts who believe that elaborate constraints on public managers deprive them of authority to carry out their jobs and frustrate them professionally. In spite of this the author continues to do his job the best he can inside of the constraints of his domain and manages to influence public policy to benefit the public that he serves from the "bottom-up".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Babushka on January 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Had this book for an MPA class--it was the hidden gem for that semester! The advice is given in an easy-to-read narrative, presented as personal correspondence between an uncle and his neice/nephew who are aspiring to public service careers. The insights are powerful and the prose is well-written. A must-read for those with an interest in the public or non-profit sectors.
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By S. Embry on October 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is excellent for anyone starting in public service and especially starting in public service in Washington, DC. Advice from this author is written in letterform from Uncle Ken to an androgynous niece or nephew, Kim, who has chosen public service as an honorable career choice. In monthly letters to Kim, Uncle Ken tells stories of his years as a public servant. Each monthly letter has a theme on how to succeed in the life of social engineering; another term for public service that isn't used as much as it used to be. The book is filled with personal stories of success and failure and quotes from many notables and legends. Tidbits such as "You cannot walk with kings more than very occasionally if all you know is your area of specialization, regardless of how thoroughly you may know it;" and F Scott's Fitzgerald "You must have the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function;" and the more down to earth quote from a boss who was upset with him at the time, "When I agree with you, you are operating within the power we have delegated to you. When I disagree with you, you are exceeding your authority."

This book will make you smile and shake your head at the same time. Anyone who has been in public service will read the stories and say, "yep, been there, done that, got that tee shirt." It's a good book that I enjoyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. Singer on August 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
There really aren't enough books about what it's like to work in public service. This one is a pleasure to read, and I've given it to colleagues when I really want them to succeed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm currently in a masters program for public administration (I had four years in the field before heading back to school, so there's a bit of practical knowledge in my head as well). I'm about half-way through the book and have enjoyed each chapter. A lot of what Mr. Ashworth recommends gels with what I've learned or had supervisors tell me in the past. These are highly-linked skills with a public sector position and would help anyone jumping into the fray. If there is one gripe with the book, it's that it is frequently focused on a federal level of gov't interaction. Not all public servants will be sitting before legislatures, senate committees, etc. It would be nice to get more insight from the local (i.e. city manager, city council etc.) level. However, it seems that Mr. Ashworth spent a great deal of his career at this federal level and it is perhaps what he relates with the most.
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