It’s standard procedure. When we need to find a new County Manager or Superintendent of Schools or other top-ranking staff member, a consulting firm (usually also non-local) is paid to winnow the field of applicants from across the country. Then the appropriate local body makes their choice and awaits the arrival of the new person, someone who has likely received training for employment administering homogeneous systems used everywhere in this huge, diverse country.
Granted, there are so many rules, legalities, and standard operating procedures in government that the priority may necessarily be to find someone who has proven adept at dealing with the bureaucratic labyrinth and standard policies.
By accepting this priority we are effectively saying that local knowledge of the history, people, policies, environment, and politics of our town, county, or school district is secondary to knowledge of how to govern according to the state or nationally prescribed norms and requirements.
Maybe the demands of governing in today’s society have made these priorities necessary. Maybe the skills taught from the same textbooks in planning departments of universities across the country and then honed working in municipalities run according to this same body of knowledge are of prime importance. Or maybe someone with roots and knowledge of the community could help us govern more effectively and creatively while relying on other staff that is knowledgeable of legal and bureaucratic requirements.
What do you think? Is it worth experimenting with local talent? Or are the stakes and risks too high for creative experimentation of this sort?