Executive training entirely appropriate

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 17, 2003

Having read Mr. Prutsok’s commentary published on Sunday, March 9, in the Suffolk News-Herald, I feel the need to correct a number of misstatements and erroneous assumptions presented in his comments.

The primary concern raised by Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Godwin at City Council’s meeting was the use of taxpayer dollars to partially fund my participation in a three-week executive training program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government last summer.

These executive training programs, like others across the country, are designed to improve management skills of persons who serve in key leadership roles in corporations, governments and community organizations. I doubt any of us would question the need and appropriateness of a corporate CEO attending such a training program, yet Mr. Prutsok seems to feel a city council person who has oversight responsibilities for the policies of a $228 million municipal corporation does not need to have similar training and skills. I would say that this type training is appropriate, necessary and valuable.

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While I believe the city’s financing of this executive training is appropriate, I was able to attend the training at a substantially reduced cost to the city, as was reported in Saturday’s Suffolk News-Herald. The city financed less than $3,500 of the total cost because I was able to obtain a $3,000 scholarship from Harvard and contributed an additional $3,700 personally. Three weeks of first-class, professional training at a cost of just over $1,000 each week is a very reasonable cost by most standards.

Mr. Prutsok suggested in his commentary that had &uot;lost (my) cool and bizarrely lashed out at women,&uot; when I stated that I was &uot;not a secretary and will not take notes.&uot; Indeed, I believe it is Mr. Prutsok who has made an inappropriate characterization that all secretaries must be women. One of the functions of a corporate secretary or a secretary of a board is to keep a written record of meetings, but it should not be assumed that these positions are only filled by women.

More to the point, the executive trainings like those I attended last summer at Harvard, are designed to sharpen executive skills that allow those in leadership roles to better lead. These trainings improve such critical skills as long-range planning, strategic thinking, teamwork and consensus building. These courses generally do not lend themselves to taking copious notes or, as Mr. Prutsok would suggest, to producing &uot;a detailed action list and timetable for apply same.&uot; They are theories and processes for becoming a more effective and efficient leader; all critical skills for elected officials as well as key city administrators and business executives.

I believe a review of council practices in Suffolk as well as other jurisdictions will show that my participation and the city’s partial financing of the Harvard executive training program is common practice and accepted as an appropriate and effective training tool for elected and administrative professionals.

The City of Suffolk deserves the most professional leadership available. Our city and its citizens are too important not to have leaders who are willing and able to provide the expertise and skills necessary to guide its future.

Charles Brown is Suffolk City Councilman.