John Bewick

John Bewick, for whom I worked when he was Secretary of Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts, died this morning, surrounded by his family and celebrated by his friends. With all due respect to my various deans and chairs, I think John was the best boss I ever had, and a week doesn’t go by that I don’t teach off my years in EOEA, shamelessly retailing what I learned from him and from the rest of the gang he assembled.  Ed King, the governor in whose administration we served, was a sort of Harry Truman/business-oriented Democrat from whom almost nothing was expected on the environmental front, but John discerned that King (i) liked finished product rather than being asked permission even though King asserted the opposite (ii) was basically indifferent to environmental issues but loved anything with an economic development payoff. Especially at the time, this set was a target-rich environment. Generally regarded as the most successful executive agency in that administration, we put through a series of important environmental initiatives affecting (for example) endangered species, cleaning up the Charles River, a depuration plant that put Massachusetts shellfish back on menus up and down the East Coast, a whole series of environmental regulations implementing delegated environmental powers, and an innovative hazardous waste facility siting law.  It was an exciting time in environmental policy and we had the unusual opportunity to make up a lot of it as we went along.

John’s achievements in public service, when I worked for him, are inseparable from the team of assistant secretaries he chose by a rule of never hiring anyone not smarter than he in at least one useful way, and no two people alike.  I (and the others) remember our first meeting together, when we all looked around the table at the Newton fireman’s son who finished a GI Bill BA at U.Mass in two years, the dollar-a-year hi-tech exec, the pointy-head MIT professor, etc., all thinking, “I have nothing in common with anyone here. This is going to be awful!” We were completely mistaken. John made the team work by being patient with everyone who wasn’t smarter than he in all the other ways, namely all of us, by being almost radiantly committed to each of us as individuals and to the public good, by forcing us to educate and challenge each other, and by his terrier-like obsession with getting the science right and understanding the politics of the current issue. It’s significant that the whole team, including various commissioners and other staff, have had well-attended reunions every five or ten years, the last this past summer.   Here is a brief formal biography.

If you fall out of your dinghy into the Charles and don’t get sick, or see an eagle flying around the Quabbin, or for that matter if you think you learned anything in a course I taught, thank John Bewick.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

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