SCS Offers “Lessons in Leadership” with Jodey Arrington
Accomplished public sector leader Jodey Arrington presented on the lessons in leadership he has learned during his career in public service to current and prospective students of the Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program in a special online event. The MPPA program at Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies offers coursework to prepare students for policy and leadership roles in government, public and nonprofit sectors, and private enterprise.
Arrington currently serves as vice chancellor for research, commercialization and federal relations for the Texas Tech University System, and his career in the public sector spans nearly 17 years. From an early age, Arrington was “inspired by what one person can do that can make a difference in the lives of so many.” Arrington’s passion to make a difference, his generous and honest discussion of his career, and his charisma all came through with meaningful insights on what students can anticipate in a career in public policy and administration.
Arrington began his career as an ombudsman in the Texas Governor’s Office under George W. Bush, and admitted that at the time, he had never heard of an ombudsman. He soon understood the role as the “constituent relations arm” of the governor and became adept at listening to people and responding to their concerns. “For me, it was an incredible honor that I was meeting with the public on behalf of Governor George Bush,” he recalled. He transitioned to advising Governor Bush on appointments to state boards and commissions, and a few years later was selected to serve President Bush as a special assistant and associate director for presidential personnel.
Through his time working with President Bush, Arrington learned to “focus for results,” recognizing that activity does not equal productivity. “One of the challenges for you, as future public administrators is: select meaningful and measurable goals, and pursue them relentlessly,” he advised. “Those in public service must identify which issues have the greatest return for their time and effort, measure the results, and demonstrate the value to stakeholders to make a difference.”
In 2009, Arrington was appointed to chief of staff under Donald Powell, the 18th chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He later became deputy federal coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Working at the FDIC, Arrington often heard Powell talk about the “intangibles in leadership – the ‘it’ factor.” Arrington elaborated that in addition to having solid knowledge of public administration, those who are successful leaders in the field of public service bring intangibles that the public responds to, such as character, integrity, judgment, fairness, consistency, a competitive attitude, and a desire to be the best. “They’re better caught than taught,” he said, adding “you might work for someone and catch [them], it’s contagious.”
Arrington also emphasized the important role his graduate education in public administration has played in his successful career. “Having my master’s in public administration was a tremendous help to me along the way, in perception and substantively.” He added that an MPPA degree “will give you an advantage in many ways, so I applaud your efforts to continue your education.”