About The Practitioner Scholar

Hanging Up the Vocation

After 38 years and some 60 client agencies later, I called it a career back in August 2014. I was fortunate. I’d been a city manager, president of a publicly held economic development corporation, vice president of a multi-million dollar development company, executive director of both a redevelopment agency and a housing authority, planning/community development director, and a consultant/advisor to multiple public and private agencies throughout California. Municipalities served ranged in population from the high teens to over 1 million. From urban, rural, suburban, exurban, coastal, inner-city, or even agriculturally based, my professional path traversed some of the most socio-economically and ethnically diverse communities in the State.  I didn’t miss much of California’s physical or cultural topography. City manager in one, planning director (later to become city manager) in the other, I was a member of the start-up executive management teams of two newly incorporated cities. I would later accept interim assignments in eight other municipalities. With these and many other meaningful experiences in the chambers of much older city halls, it was time to pass the baton.  I clearly couldn’t hold a job.

The Avocation Would Continue a Little Longer

Overlapping the last eleven years of my day job, my avocation as an adjunct practitioner instructor would continue through the summer session of 2018. Completing 15 years at five universities, I stood at the lectern in 50 classes filled with more than 1,000 post-graduate students. The courses ranged from the theory and practice of public administration to urban management, from public policy to economic development, from the mechanics of real estate development to managing sustainable communities; and even to the concept of globalizing cities. My worth to student and faculty alike had been predicated on nearly four decades of strategic problem solving experience in a multitude of venues.  For me, the value of a practitioner instructor was based on knowledge of current events. In an age of accelerations, problems and issues require historical maturity but also the knowledge that comes with contemporary engagement. I am now more than five years out from managing and leading both public and private agencies. Without the experience of day to day events, I began to question my own relevance in the classroom.  My own interests had changed. Those of the students had changed. After warping so my young minds, even this too must pass.

The Encore–Finding Ways to Stay Relevant, Stay Engaged, and Still Contribute (There is more to life than titles, ties, and professional associations)

The Blog 

As professional public servants, ours is a responsibility that requires an almost innate understanding of the relationship between government and the governed.  It is much more than just the application of the next best and greatest communication method or the leadership flavor of the month. The majority of this new generation of public servants have never really been academically exposed to the causations behind the democratic needs of society, the necessity for respect of governmental institutions, and the requirement for an adherence to the constitutional rule of law.  Especially in an age of what amounts to vocational education, there seems to be no room for civics. Many of those new to the public service have not even had a remedial exposure to the workings of the greater polity until graduate school.  So in my own small way, this blog is a periodic reminder as to the necessity for those in government to know more about government.  For those of us in the public service, ours is a civic responsibility beyond that that is required of the individual citizen. This blog is a part of my own civic responsibility.

Yet Still– Another Classroom Filled With Another Kind of Student

I love the exchange of the classroom and no, it’s not just because I like to hear myself talk. Consequently I am also an Instructor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California Riverside.  (For Gray Hair/No Hair and Mature Audiences Only)


I’m back with a focus on my undergraduate academic roots: political theory, civics, comparative politics, demography, socio-economic trends, environmental economics, and above all, political history. I’m not sure where or how long this phase will last, but since I just turned 70 it’s cool to focus on intellectual endeavors that I really enjoy. Besides, without the responsibility of grading there is even more time for family, friends, travel, biking, hiking and those causes that need attention. I still have to figure out an effective exercise routine.

Stay Tuned and Stay Well!!

Steve Harding

Steve Harding

5 thoughts on “About The Practitioner Scholar

Add yours

  1. Steve,

    Best wishes to you on this new phase in your lifelong endeavor to help others better understand and to improve public administration! Keep the blog posts coming! They’re much appreciated!


    Paul Hubler

  2. Steve

    Truly enjoy reading your thought on leadership and public service. Please keep them coming.

    Ben Wong
    Past Councilmember & Mayor
    City of West Covina

  3. Steve,
    It has been said that business of government is an infectious disease. So glad you are still infected and of service to others.
    Hoping our paths may cross at UCR.
    Darcy Kuenzi, Former Menifee City Councilmember

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