Public Management

MPM helped gain insight into future of public sector

April 8, 2015

While following TIAS’ Master of Public and Non-Profit Management program (MPM), Marcel Delhez realized that becoming a mayor could be his calling. He has now been nominated by the Noord-Beveland Council as mayor of this municipality.

Was it always your dream to become a mayor?
“Not in the beginning. After my communication studies, I started work as a publisher at a publishing company. And my last job was at the research firm GfK, where I advised companies in the fast moving sector on their marketing and sales policy. That was the commercial sector, which is quite different from the public sector. Some colleagues have joked that I have gone from "fast moving" to "slow moving." But that isn’t really true.

I started my job as an alderman full of energy and motivation, but it was only after I was asked to become an alderman that I realized what public administration entailed, what was involved and what was behind it."

What do you like so much about public administration?
"The impact you have on improving a municipality for its residents. As an administrator you can think of solutions for problems that people struggle with and then implement them. A municipality is made up of people. I think it is a wonderful thing when you can make a difference for these people as a public administrator."

Cooperation with focus groups

What are you proud of as an alderman?
"We have developed, in collaboration with several focus groups, public spaces in the town of Uden. Residents have been closely involved in developing parks and roads. This sounds like a small thing but when we started with this – seven-eight years ago – it was not yet a common phenomenon. Those people had a real impact on shaping their environment. That was the start of civic participation inside the municipality. In the early days this probably went in a somewhat makeshift-manner, but later it all went much smoother. A structured process has now been put in place."

Why did you choose the TIAS Master of Public and Non-Profit Management?
"I knew I wanted to do something different after my second term as an alderman, but I did not know what. Because I wanted to challenge myself, I opted for a master program. I thought that the MPM could help me gain an insight into where the public sector was heading. That was true. The program interprets the changes in the public sector in a scientific way and places them in a context. You learn why things are as they are and how you can make a change."

Reflect on developments

How has the Master of Public and Non-Profit Management helped with your choice to become mayor?
"The program has given me the scientific knowledge I needed to form a fact-based vision of the trends and the future of a country. I learned to reflect on developments before offering an opinion. In many cases, my opinion used to be based on my political preferences. TIAS has taught me to recognize different perspectives, and that gave me a much broader view of developments in the public sector. In the program, the sector is studied from all the different angles.

I arrived at the conclusion during the program that many things that are important to citizens have nothing to do with politics. A citizen wants a solution to his problem and a political color only determines in part what that solution will look like. As in developing public spaces for example. Residents want a say in the design of a new city park; they want a children’s playground made of natural materials or a sleek design with paths and benches, or both. Local residents, focus groups, and village councils want to be involved as well.  I like to be close to citizens and the community. In my capacity as mayor, I think I can do much for citizens."

Integrity

What insight you gained while doing the master program is still useful to you every day?

"The insights that I gained while writing my thesis on the role of government in the municipal society. The same goes for the paper I wrote about integrity. The latter is, of course, a difficult and topical subject. Because of my paper, I was able to form a picture of the subject on the basis of scientific findings.

TIAS taught me to investigate first before forming an opinion. By the way, that took some time; I only came to that understanding after my first paper. There was a red line almost through the whole paper, I can tell you. Too often I voiced an opinion without supporting it with arguments. It was a surprise though, because I had read a lot and written that down. I thought I had done that unbiased. I learned to first do research, then see what others think and only then to write a conclusion based on those opinions. If you do want to give an opinion, you can only do that after that conclusion.

It makes sense for an alderman to have your views based on your political preferences, but as a mayor you cannot do that. A mayor stands above the parties. This acquired ability to take a more contemplative look at developments before forming an opinion will certainly help me in the coming mayoralty.

Do you also want to gain an insight into the public sector? TIAS’ Executive Master of Public and Non-Profit Management is an academic master program for leadership and management in the public domain.

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