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John Nalbandian presents at MRC 15 May 2018
Local Authority: Municipal Administration Leadership Workshop SLGM
Location: Kananaskis Village, Alerta
Closing Date: 5/11/2018

John Nalbandian, PhD

Political Astuteness: Bridging the Gap between what is Politically Acceptable and Administratively Sustainable


The biggest risk any government faces is the loss of trust.  Trust is the capital necessary to take risks, to innovate, to learn from one’s mistakes.  Trust is earned as governments are able to get things done—to produce results.  The production imperative requires bridging an ever present gap between what is politically acceptable and what is administratively sustainable (what do we want to do and can we do it over time). 

The challenge today is that bridging the gap is becoming more complex and challenging and the concept of the “leadership team” has become more salient as a result.  Leadership team members are challenged to do more than manage their departments; they add value as they are able to work the bridge.  Working the bridge requires “political astuteness.” The politically astute are “bi-lingual.”  They can speak, understand, and translate political and administrative mindsets.

There are two paths to becoming bi-lingual.  The first is understanding that efficiency is one of four fundamental political values and that building political acceptability requires working with the values.  The second is recognizing that while governing body members and administrative professionals use the same words to communicate with each other, they actually are operating from different constellations of logic.

The workshop introduces the gap concept, then explores the values and the constellations of logic.

John Nalbandian, PhD is the keynote speaker at the 2018 Municipal Administration Leadership Workshop in Kananaskis Tuesday afternoon, 15 May 2018.

Brief Bio

John Nalbandian, Professor Emeritus, joined the faculty in the public administration program at the University of Kansas in the 1970s.  U.S. News and World Report ranks the School of Public Affairs and Administration’s local government emphasis as the best in the country.  John was chair on two occasions.  In addition to his administrative experience, John served on the Lawrence, Kansas, city council for eight years including two terms as the council’s mayor.  John has also served as president of the Lawrence library board and the Willow Domestic Violence Center board.  He has received numerous awards for his teaching, research, and service including recognition in Kansas as both academic administrator of the year as well as elected official of the year.

In addition to his continuing affiliation with KU, John has served as a visiting professor of practice at both Arizona State University and presently at Virginia Tech where he supports their local government certificate program.  John regularly presents his “Political Astuteness” workshop in local government professional development programs at the Universities of Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia.  In addition, he provides workshops to local government and elected official professional associations throughout the country as well as facilitating council retreats.  Recently, he contributed to an orientation of new council members in Strathcona County and jurisdictions adjacent to Edmonton.

Go to and have a look at the other informative speakers and sessions available at the 18th MRC May 15-18, 2018 in beautiful Kananaskis Country.

This employment opportunity has been circulated by the Society of Local Government Managers of Alberta. The Society has been providing this service to all municipalities and its members since 1993.

The cost for a single job posting is $157.50. If multiple postings are submitted within 24 hours then the cost structure would be:

  • First Post: $157.50
  • Second Post: $141.75
  • Third, Fouth, Fifth, etc. Post(s): $131.25