`Loaned Executives' from Business Help Boston and Other US Cities

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BOSTON Mayor Thomas Menino is beginning to benefit from the expertise of private-sector executives who can now donate their time to work for city government.

The goal of the city's new ``loaned executive'' program - approved by the City Council in December - is to bring fresh ideas from the private sector to the public workplace. Under the program, executives bring their skills in finance and management to the city while their companies pay their salaries.

Boston's newest executive ``on loan'' is Michael Galvin. An area operations manager from Nynex Corp., Mr. Galvin started his job for the city earlier this month. He will be working on department performance evaluations and other projects for the city. After one year, he will return to Nynex.

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``I'm tickled pink to be here,'' says Galvin, who has worked for Nynex for the past 24 years. ``It's exciting and it's a challenge. It gives me a different focus that I can bring back.''

Mayor Menino, who was elected last November, is now assembling a brand new administration after the departure of former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn. The new Boston mayor hopes to bring in two or three more executives on loan in the near future as well as some retired executives.

``We hope to bring them on board in the next few months,'' said Mr. Menino in a telephone interview. ``They live in the city and they want to reinvest in the city by giving their personal time.'' Under state ethics laws, the executives can't be placed in positions from which their companies would benefit.

While some of Boston's new executives may stay for as long as one year, others may stay for shorter periods. Cutbacks in city services and a $30 million budget deficit have prompted the mayor to take advantage of outside expertise.

Putting private executives to work in city, state, and federal government or for charitable organizations is nothing new. During financial crises in New York City in the 1970s and in Cleveland in the 1980s, private business stepped in to help out these cities. Companies either offer their employees for free or for a reduced fee.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Edward Rendell used 125 loaned executives in 1992 and 1993 when he first took office and faced a $250 million city budget deficit.

Philadelphia's program helped bring down city costs. For example, one executive's idea was to hire a manager to monitor acquisitions and repair work for the city's vehicle department. The suggestion was adopted and so far has worked well. Ultimately, it will save the city millions of dollars over the next two to three years, says Rendell's press secretary Kevin Feeley.

The city is now back in fiscal health with a balanced budget over the past two years, thanks, in part, to the loaned executives.

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