Former full-time and now part-time Amelia Island resident, Pat Keogh, had an article printed in late May in the Washington DC based “Government Executive Magazine,” a publication that says it offers “practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.”
In it Pat offered sensible and sound tips on how to efficiently manage projects and people, financially and practically. Pat has done both in the private sector and for the government. He’s a successful lawyer, businessman and entrepreneur. He has contributed to this blog in the past.
I was surprised to read the comments from government bureaucrats at the end of the article that were almost 100 percent negative. Those attitudes correctly reflect President Trump’s observations about the “swamp” that needs draining. Pat says the negative responses didn’t surprise him, adding that most of his former government colleagues are bureaucrats that all have a bias toward the status quo.
Following is an abridged version of Pat’s article. See what you think.
Understanding our New President
I voted for Donald. It was not an enthusiastic vote. I had grown disappointed in Mr. Obama’s administration. I came to see his policies as mostly divisive social engineering and as dissipating US leadership in a troubled world. I thought his lack of executive experience hobbled him in creating a consensus among different views. When Mrs. Clinton promised more of the same that eliminated any prospect she had of getting my vote.
I was born, raised and educated in New York City. I am a real estate guy long active in private development and investment. I believe, as Calvin Coolidge said, that the business of America is business. When our economy is expanding at a vigorous pace our people tend to be content and when America is strong the world is a better place. I also had a career as a real estate executive in government. I read all of Trump’s books because I developed a couple of major projects for the feds in the City. So Trump and I have common interests and maybe I understand both his approach and the turmoil official Washington feels from his style of governance.
“It’s remarkable how quickly they are absorbed.” That’s a remark made by a senior official during the Reagan Administration. The point he made is that political appointees seemed quick to be captured by the career civil servants or “the system”. The career folks would persuade new appointees that the safe path was to continue to do things the way they had been done. It was a kind of bureaucratic Stockholm syndrome. I don’t think Trump will adjust to the system; he expects us to change to suit him.
Results matter. I did lots of real estate deals for the government. I don’t recall anyone ever asking whether my procurements were good deals. My performance was measured by whether my procurements were protest free. Now we have a President who said the cost of Air Force One and fighter jets are exorbitant. In doing that, the President was saying “price matters!”.
Consistency is not an objective. It has long seemed that the worst sin a public official can make is to be inconsistent. I think of it as the Chuck Todd Syndrome. Todd’s “Meet the Press” interviews are usually about finding conflicts in someone’s public statements or actions. How often have you heard him ask in an interview “then, how do you explain what you said during the campaign? Run the clip.” What’s wrong with being inconsistent if it keeps the other side off guard? That’s negotiating. Consistency is not the objective; the best deal is.
It’s not lying; it’s just hondling. How many of us have said “I would love to give you your price on that car. But if I paid that my wife would kill me.” So the frequent accusations that the President is lying is often merely him setting the table to hondle for the best deal. “Hondling” is New Yorkese for “bargaining.” Think of his confident pledge that Mexico will pay for the wall or that the US will impose trade tariffs as chips to be used in the deal to renegotiate trade and other relationships like NAFTA with one of our largest commercial partners, Mexico.
He didn’t get the training. Trump, unlike his predecessors, did not spend years in government. He was not trained on walking a verbal tightrope. He didn’t learn to spin or be defensive in everything he says. He came from a world where they measure your performance by your runs, hits and the final score. He’s not so good on defense; it’s all about offense and winning.
Think of his style of governance as sailing. The President has a strong pro business and American leadership agenda. But, he approaches governance like he approaches his business; it’s all about tacking like sailing. He will be heading toward his goals but he will be constantly tacking back and forth depending on conditions. By contrast, I think prior Administrations were more like driving. They announced their destination at the outset. Then, they headed as fast as possible to their goal mindless to changes and the consequences of all that speed. Consider the withdrawal from Iraq.
Let’s try it his way. My last assignment in government was to Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review. The NPR was mostly an attempt to adapt private practices to the way government conducts its business. I had come to believe the main reason the government underperformed its business colleagues was the difference in incentives. Government had no competitive incentive to achieve the best results. I was enthusiastic about the NPR but disappointed by the results. I came to think of the NPR as a noble but failed attempt to reform. We have now elected a 70 year old business executive not to reform government but to fundamentally change government. Maybe it’s best to take him at his word. That is his family owes a lot to this country and he saw it heading in the wrong direction. He’s a deal maker, a negotiator and a tough guy with thick skin. I don’t think he plans to adjust his approach to accommodate the government status quo or the media view of what they think is acceptable.
I think the President has made superb selections for his Vice President and Cabinet. Trump’s critics have cast aspersions on his cabinet as a bunch of billionaires. I think we should be thankful for the service of successful people. Just think about the likes of Betsy De Vos leading the Department of Education. She has spent her time and considerable wealth to reform a failing public education system. She must now lead an entrenched bureaucracy on a new course toward infusing a competitive incentive into our education system. As a former bureaucrat I doubt she found many advocates for her agenda among the DoE staff. I would not want to be her entering the DoE building every morning.
(Editor’s note: Pat Keogh still owns restaurant and other properties in Fernandina but fled the city for Austin, Texas due to the outrageous fees, particularly” impact” or “capacity fees.” “When the rest of the universe is trying to make it easier for business, Fernandina Beach is trying to squelch it,” Keogh said last year before taking his capital and leaving to invest it in Texas. He has since purchased a new home on Amelia Island, and intentionally avoided buying in Fernandina Beach for his stated reasons.)
He Won’t Clinch This Race Either: I have always found local attorney Clinch Kavanaugh to be an interesting fellow to sit with and enjoy a cold beer, despite the fact that we agree on practically nothing except abolishing Fernandina Beach’s extortionist impact fees/capacity fees that financially strangle local entrepreneurs.
However, I feel he is making a serious mistake by recently announcing his candidacy for the Fernandina Beach City Commission to run against local restaurateur Tim Poynter, who, along with Mayor Robin Lentz, is one of the two smartest people to sit on the commission.
In announcing his run in the local News-Leader this past Wednesday Kavanaugh made an outrageous statement saying: “The only person Tim’s out for is Tim.” I find that hypocritical and contradictory, particularly since Kavanaugh said in the next breath that he’s a supporter of changing the city’s code to allow downtown building owners to rent their upper floors for residential use. Of course the dreadful News-Leader, whose publisher, Foy Maloy, has an irrational hatred of Poynter, will publish any claptrap critical of Poynter no matter the source or validity.
Who’s looking out for whom here Clinch? Kavanaugh owns a “For Lease” building on downtown’s North 2nd Street that used to house the now shuttered Dog Star Tavern and has refurbished the upstairs as an apartment. And as part of his campaign he’s saying that he wants to allow downtown building owners to rent their upper floors for residential use and Tim’s out for Tim? Hey, Clinch, you’re probably going to lose this race by more votes this time than you did last time you ran, and that was by a bunch. Maybe you should think about doing something else as you obviously don’t have a knack for politics.
So far this is a three person race and I predict Clinch will come in a distant fourth particularly when voters see him sitting in the front row of Tuesday commission sessions muttering under his breath and occasionally throwing temper tantrums. He makes a living suing the city and is in the same category as commission candidate Dr. Ronald “Chip” Ross who offers nothing but chaos, confusion and conflict to the citizens of Fernandina Beach. These two on the commission would be a reality TV show.
Putting Money Where The Mouths Are: Following a Wednesday, July 12 Fox Channel 30 six o’clock news item in which Barnabas Communications Manager Jeff McDowell said all the right things, First Coast Honda Dealers were so impressed that they sent the charitable organization a check for $25,000 for its “Snack Pack” program, that is designed to feed homeless Nassau County kids healthy meals. The unexpected cash helps make up for a shortfall of $30,000 the group didn’t receive in grants this year to provide meals to deserving children who otherwise may have gone hungry. The silver-tongued McDowell said the donation will help Barnabas feed 50 percent of the 500 children the area school district says are the neediest. Want to help? Contact Barnabas at barnabasnassau.org or call them at 904/261-7000 ext. 107. The shocker to me is that there are so many kids in Nassau County in need of this assistance.
Napoleonic Politics: Republicans are considering asking Democrats to work with them on health care and other legislation. That’s a bad idea. These are people who have been wrong on everything for the past 50 years or more. Why include their failed proposals in anything? Besides the left wants no part of it anyway and why would the GOP even want to be in the same room with these people whose only answer to the country’s problems is to call the opposition names, denigrate the President, and make stupid speeches that embarrass themselves and their party. Most of these folks shouldn’t even be allowed to own pets much less participate in issues such as national security. Let them wander in the wilderness with their nutty protest signs and juvenile chants. As Napoleon said: “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: In the good news and bad news BBQ joint department the good news is that the recently opened State Line Barbecue at the corner of Sadler and Will Hardee is doing a landslide business. The bad news is that it’s doing a landslide business and has consistently run out of pigs around 3:30 or 4 p.m. daily. Get there early folks or call your order in to Mike Stringer at 770/335-4476. I’m flattered that Mike would give this blog credit for his brisk sales the first day or two of operations as evidenced by the sign he posted on the door. In the more good news department the Sandbar & Kitchen at Main Beach is opening this weekend where the old Sandy Bottoms was once located. The bad news is you can’t go there tonight (Friday) or tomorrow (Saturday) because on those days it’s hosting private parties for all the folks involved in getting this spectacular new place up and running. It officially opens to the public Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m. The menu is still in the editing and proof reading stages but from what I’ve seen there is a varied selection and price ranges. The most expensive items I saw (and this is not official) was a $34 rib-eye with sides of garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and more and a whole snapper for $24 with coconut-curry broth, lime couscous, and tropical fruit. The menu is heavy with seafood items as is to be expected. It includes one-half pound peel-and-eat shrimp for $11.50 (still can’t beat the Salty Pelican’s $10 deal); wings (5 for $6.50 and 10 for 11 bucks); a grouper sandwich for $17 and a variety of other sandwiches, soups, pizzas and salads. There is also a cheese board with a trio of cheeses, fruits, nuts, etc. at $19 and a pulled pork BBQ sandwich with cole slaw for $11. Oh, the Snack Bar window facing the parking lot is open and sunburned and sandy folks in dripping wet bathing suits can order sandwiches, pizza, ice cream etc. Michelle Seder, Kevin Dooner, and Hez Houze have done a great job of converting this ocean-facing prime location into what I predict will become one of the most popular hospitality places on the island. T-Ray’s Burger Station, the corner of Beech Street and 8th Street South has been — for the first time — opening in the evenings beginning last weekend and every future Friday and Saturday evening from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Trey Mullis, T-Ray’s and Laura’s son, is handling the kitchen with the menu featuring T-Ray’s traditional southern cooking including a trigger fish dinner with cole slaw, hush puppies and fries for $15; fried shrimp dinner with the same for $16; shrimp & grits for $14; and a fried seafood platter with trigger fish, shrimp, a crab cake, fries and hush puppies for $24, the most expensive item on the “After Dark” menu. The famous burgers, pulled pork sandwich and fish and crab sandwiches are also featured as are a selection of sides, beer and wine and the addition of 10 wings for 10 bucks. Just down South 8th Street at Halftime Sports Bar & Grill manager Lorenzo Church will fire up the BBQ again this weekend to do some oriental stuff including Korean spicy spare ribs served with beef & kimchi, steamed dumplings and Korean smoked & braised pulled pork tacos, topped with sesame slaw and sriracha aioli. What’s next Lorenzo, Sumo wrestlers in the parking lot? I inadvertently left out the Cafe Karibo on the list of bars to enjoy a cocktail at after the Friday Sounds on Centre last weekend. That cozy retreat features what I think is the best happy hour in town from 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday with a half price drink menu including the priciest stuff. I get ice cold Bud Lite’s there for $1.50, an unheard of price hereabouts, while the classy gals at the other end of the bar are enjoying three buck Grey Goose martinis.