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PADM 613: 
Local Government Administration


Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program

Battle Creek Campus
Grand Rapids Campus
Kalamazoo Campus
Lansing Campus

Fall Semester, 2003
3 Credit Hours

Course Administration:

Class Meeting Dates

This class will meet for twelve weekly sessions, of which six will be live (on-site, face-to-face) classroom sessions meeting on Monday nights from 6:00-9:00 p.m., and six will be Internet-mediated sessions using the World Wide Web and E-mail. The session dates are indicated in the course calendar.

Attendance at all class sessions is expected!

Instructor:  James A. Visser

Telephone:  (616) 387-8937

Fax:   (616) 387-8935

E-mail:  james.visser@wmich.edu

Course Web Page:


Office Mailing Address:
School of Public Affairs and Administration
220 E. Walwood Hall
1903 West Michigan Avenue
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008

Office Hours: By appointment only. I can be reached most easily via e-mail.

Submission of Written Reports and Documents:  All written materials must be typewritten, and submitted to the instructor via e-mail attachment or facsimile.

Questions of the Instructor: In class or via e-mail.

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Required Texts and Readings:

  • Newell, Charldean (Ed.). (1993). The effective local government manager (2nd Edition), Washington, D.C.: International City/County Management Association. 
  • A course pack of real-world cases and articles on today’s management issues, drawn from the most current and best available research and commentary in this field.

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Course Objectives:

This course is intended for supervisory and mid-level local managers with limited practical experience or training as general managers in public organizations. Therefore, the course is designed to provide students with a sound base of knowledge base for functioning as higher-level local government managers, particularly given the setting of rapid and substantial change in the operation of today’s public organizations.  This course is an elective course for the MPA program’s concentration in local government administration. 

This course addresses the management challenges faced by local public administrators in managing local government under the conditions of physical, economic, social, and political change. Students will review current societal trends affecting local communities and examine how these trends, and the roles and relationships of major stakeholders in local government, impact local policy decision-making and governmental administration. Students will then develop skills in applying public administration principles and methods to managing policy and public organizational change. 

Through targeted lectures, readings, special assignments, and discussions of case studies, this course will help the student to develop an understanding of the dynamics of managing America’s cities in an increasingly urban world that is increasingly adopting new ways of governing and managing public organizations for the twenty-first century.  Students will also develop an appreciation for how local resources, personnel, programs, and services are administered in an era of collaborative citizen participation in administration and a simultaneous push to improve operations by reinventing local government.

The following is a general topical outline of the learning modules included in this course.

  • Module 1: The New Urban Context
  • This module is a brief overview of the dynamics of today’s changing urban environment, and how regional and global change is altering the underlying assumptions of managing local government.
    • Module 2: Managing Change in the Urban Community
    This module discusses how to manage physical, economic, and political change in America’s cities brought about by the economic, demographic, and spatial trends  that are altering the nature of urban life and government. 
    • Module 3: Managing Relationships with the Community 
    This module focuses on promoting collaboration and managing conflict (1) among local governments within the same urban area, and (2) between local government and its citizens. 
    • Module 4: Managing the Organization's Internal Effectiveness 
    Managing relationships with key actors and personnel who impact the administration's effectiveness within the local government organization is the focal point of this module. Topics to be covered include relations between elected officials and appointed government professionals, relations with the press, and managing both people and financial resources in local government.
    • Module 5: Managing the Organization's Future
    The course will conclude with a module on managing those aspects of organizational resiliency that impact its transition into the future: its operational performance, and its ability to anticipate change and formulate sound plans and visions. 

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    Course Requirements:


    Students will be required to complete reading assignments from class texts and the course pack in advance of their assigned class sessions. Success in this class is directly related to keeping up with assigned readings.


    The course will include two take-home essay exams. Each exam will be given in the form of an “action memo” (approximately 10 pages, double-spaced) which allow students to integrate what they have learned in the class room to date into a simulated real-world case “problem” using a memo format similar to that found in the working world. 

    Case Studies

    Students are to read each of the course's ten cases prior to its assigned class session, complete an assignment pertaining to the case as described under Session Assignments below, and come to the next scheduled live (face-to-face) classroom session prepared to discuss the case in detail. 

    Session Assignments

    Each week, students will be responsible for completing three assignment tasks as follows:

      1. Read all assigned text material, cases, and online lectures assigned for the week.

      2.  Conduct a special assignment related to the content material of that week's session and/or the session's case study. 

    3.  Prepare a "case response" to the case study assigned for the session. The "response" is a written paper (two pages maximum) that responds to one or two key questions about the case posted by the instructor to the course web site. These questions may require an integrated response from the students, to be drawn from the week's readings, online work, and case study.  Responses are to be then e-mailed to the instructor by the dates specified in the class calendar

    These session assignments will be graded; therefore, completion of this assignment in a quality manner is important to the student's overall course grade. 

    Attendance and Class Participation

    Regular attendance at the live class sessions and active participation in the session assignments are necessary for achieving a good grade in this course. Students are asked to notify the instructor in advance, whenever possible, if they are not able to attend a class session.

    Late Assignments

    Assignment due dates are specified in the class schedule attached to the complete syllabus to be bound in the front of the course pack for this course and at the course home page on the World Wide Web.  The instructor expects all assignments to be turned in on time. Late assignments not previously cleared with the instructor will be penalized with a lower grade.  Assignments turned in later than one week beyond the due date will normally receive a grade of zero unless previously approved by the instructor. 

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    Course Grades:

    The criteria for grading in this course is as follows:

      1.  Attendance, and active and constructive participation in class and, ewhere required, on the Internet.

      2.  Quality of writing in exams and submitted case response papers. 

      3.  Quality of logic and thought presented in exams and case response papers. 

      4.  Demonstrated understanding of the content of the readings, class lectures, and case discussions. 

    The grading weights assigned to course tasks are as follows:

    Class Participation:              40 percent                 80 points

             F2F Attendance   20 percent                40 points

             Case Response 
             Assignments:         20 percent                40 points

    Session Assignments:          20 percent                 40 points

    Take-Home Exams             40 percent                 80 points

    Maximum Possible Points: 100 percent             200 points

    Grading Scale

    A=188-200 points  (94%)
    BA=176-187 points  (88%)
    B=164-175 points  (82%)
    CB=152-163 points  (76%)
    C=140-151 points  (70%)
    DC=128-139 points  (64%)
    D=116-127 points  (58%)
    E=0-116 points  (Below 58%)
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    Policy on Incomplete Work:

    All work required for this course is to be completed by the end of the semester. Failure to finish and submit assignments by the end of the semester will automatically result in a grade of zero for each missing assignment. In those rare and exceptional circumstances when severe illness or personal crises prevent timely course completion, the instructor may at his discretion grant an Incomplete. The instructor reserves the right under university policy to not only refuse the granting of a grade of I-Incomplete, but also to set the conditions under which an Incomplete is to be removed from the student’s record and converted to a letter grade.

    Policy on Plagiarism

    Any instance of plagiarism or falsification of authorship will result in a failing grade in the course.

    Additionally, students are responsbile for being aware of and understanding the policies and procedures on pages 22-26 of the Graduate Catalog that pertain to Academic Integrity. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is a reason to believe a student has been involved in academic dishonesty, he or she will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. The student will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If the student believes he or she is not responsible, he or she will have the opportunity for a hearing. The student should consult with the Dean of Students by telephone (616/387-2150) if he or she is uncertain about an issue of academic dishonesty prior to the submission of an official class assignment or test.

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    Copyright: James A. Visser
    School of Public Affairs
    and Administration
    Western Michigan University
    August, 2000
    Revised: July 2003

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