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Quick Take: Jayce Farmer on the Government & Citizenry

The public policy professor discusses trust for politicians, the influence of social media, and the state's next legislative session.

Campus News  |  Jan 27, 2017  |  By Amaya Worthem

Public policy professor Jayce Farmer. (Josh Hawkins/Creative Services)

Jayce Farmer joined UNLV's  School of Public Policy and Leadership last fall. The Tallahassee native researches local government and fiscal issues but says he’s training students to understand the weight of responsibility that comes with being a public servant. He’s training students to become leaders.

What drew you to your profession?

I was curious why government organizations and institutions behave the way that they do. Additionally, I believe that public service is a calling that should be taken seriously. Therefore, I see it as my responsibility to train students to not only be great leaders, but also public servants who will one day be charged with the responsibility of being stewards over the public’s trust.

Tell us about your area of research.

My research questions primarily place an emphasis on local governments and the incentives that drive their policymaking decisions. For example, why local governments choose to focus their financial resources in a given policy area, such as economic development, as opposed to others.  Research within these areas has also included studies of how the implications of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has shaped the financial decisions of local governments. My research has also placed a special interest in how and why local governments act collectively to overcome regional problems.

What kind of issues can we expect to be discussed at the Nevada Legislature? 

Taxation is and always will be a hot issue for the Nevada Legislature. As Clark County continues to grow, the school district will definitely need more money to accommodate the growing population. The question will be, “Where will the money come from?” The Legislature will be tasked with the issue of deciding whether to raise taxes.

A second hot issue will involve continued debate over the Achievement School District program. The Democrats of the Legislature are currently drafting a bill to repeal this program. As this program was a major item for the governor and the Republicans, I can see this issue easily being a major source of conflict in the upcoming session.

Finally, with the passing of the new law that requires state troopers to wear body cameras, I believe issues involving police accountability will be on the forefront as well.

What kind of relationship do you see citizens having with their local leaders going forward?

There’s a level of mistrust between citizens and local leaders and I believe that can be reduced if leaders continue to make efforts to engage citizens. Much of the mistrust on the behalf of citizens comes from a lack of understanding of government and its operations. This is why is it key for local leaders to be dedicated to transparency and accountability. Engaging citizens and allowing them to actively become a part of government processes can be valuable in reducing citizens’ mistrust.

Are citizens more inclined to voice their concerns via social media?

I recently conducted research in this area and found that social media can bring opportunities for local officials to innovatively engage the public to enhance service delivery and, as a result, improve government-citizen relations. Citizens are becoming more inclined to voice their concerns via social media. The key here is for governments to make sure that they recognize and take advantage of opportunities to integrate social media into their functions to enhance citizen participation.

What’s the biggest misconception about your field?

In addition to most people being unfamiliar with public administration and assuming it to be a part of business, I would say that the greatest misconception is that public administration is the same as political science. The two fields definitely overlap, but there are stark differences. In short, political science places an emphasis on the political philosophies and thinking behind government and what government is. Meanwhile, public administration places an emphasis on the management and execution of government and the allocation of its resources. The overlap usually comes when we consider the various areas of public policy.