Not easy being 'true green,' Emison finds


Jerry Emison

Persistence. Resilience. Adaptability. Reliability.

Successful government executives -- especially environmental officials -- demonstrate these qualities every day, according to a new book co-edited by an environmental policy authority at Mississippi State University.

"True Green: Executive Effectiveness in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency" was co-written and -edited by Gerald A. "Jerry" Emison, MSU political science and public administration professor, and former departmental colleague John C. Morris, now an environmental policy and public administration professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

Emison said the 200-page book published by Lexington Books is for anyone desiring to learn more about effective public executive behavior and especially for readers interested in or dedicated to the environment.

The book defines "green behavior" as the actions that actually protect the environment. It details those actions EPA's career public executives took to meet high public expectations while fulfilling complex statutory requirements.

Emison, a retired senior EPA administrator and University of North Carolina doctoral graduate, said he hopes current government executives at state and local as well as federal government levels can employ the lessons of "True Green" to help train new leaders, who will be essential for the nation to continue to make environmental progress.

Composed of case studies by retired and current federal government executives, "True Green" seeks to illustrate how government executives can use persistence, resilience, adaptability and reliability to translate abstract legislation into effective environmental policy, Emison said.

"We try to show people how difficult environmental executive management is," he observed, and added, "as well as the management traits that actually can work to improve the environment in the face of such difficulties."

Emison, a former EPA executive who helped draft the 1990 Clean Air Act, collected experiences of other career executives to cover four decades of executive decisions, from the 1970s through the turn of the century. The choices they made resulted in a cleaner nation, he said.

"These people have done well for the public" Emison said. "They have protected the environment in the face of enormous complexity and have advanced the public interest through government action to safeguard the environment."

The "True Green" contributors each have more than 20 years of experience in the senior executive service of the federal government and are all award-winning managers. Each chapter chronicles a single senior executive whose administrative practices addressed both complex environmental issues and how to apply effective solutions at all levels, including governments, businesses and other organizations.

"The contributors to this book were at the front lines from the 1970s to today, leading the premier national environmental organization in the United States," he said. "Their wisdom and insights concerning effective environmental protection and organizational management demonstrate what it means to be truly 'green' and take effective, sustained action to improve the environment."

From air pollution to clean water, "True Green" explores not only the scientific side of what administrators must understand to address environmental problems, but also identifies the intricacies of political and management solutions. The book identifies effective solutions and highlights common activities among different groups, stakeholders and value systems.

"This book provides a window into the concrete and pragmatic behaviors essential for advancing environmental protection," Emison observed.

Leah Barbour | University Relations

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