1st Edition

The Curious Public Administrator

By William Hatcher Copyright 2024

    Louis Brownlow, one of public administration’s historical thinkers, once argued, “[T]he principal requirement of a good administrator is an insatiable curiosity.” This book is rooted in the notion that public administrators must practice insatiable curiosity to be effective, fair, and democratic. By seeking to uncover how the world works, and therefore practicing curiosity, public administrators may be more likely to move toward evidence-based decisions, improving the efficacy and efficiency of public service. Curiosity encourages public administrators to seek answers in a caring manner and, in doing so, to empathize with the communities that they serve.

    First, the book incorporates the concept of curiosity into the field of public administration. Scholarship in philosophy, business administration, social science, and other scholarly fields addresses curiosity, but public administration has yet to examine this concept in detail. This book fills that hole in the literature. Second, the book presents novel primary data on curiosity in public agencies by examining curious organizations and surveying local government officers. Third, the book presents novel primary data on how public affairs faculty view curiosity and incorporate the concept in their research and the classroom. Lastly, author William Hatcher integrates this information in the book’s final chapter to present a model of administrative curiosity, focusing on creating a guide for future research and teaching. Thus, this book serves as a roadmap for developing a new doctrine of curiosity in public administration theory and practice, and it will be of enormous interest to students enrolled in public affairs courses as well as practicing public administrators and nonprofit managers.

    List of Tables

    1 An Introduction to Curiosity in Public Administration

    2 Defining and Aligning Curiosity

    3 Theoretical Framework of the Curious Public Administrator

    4 Curious Public Administrators

    5 Curious Public Administration Faculty

    6 Curiosity in Public Organizations

    7 Insatiable Curiosity—An Administrative Theory for the Public Sector Workplace



    William Hatcher is a professor of political science and public administration and the chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Augusta University. He currently serves as the co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Affairs Education. He received both a B.S. in political science (2003) and an MPA (2004) from Georgia College and State University, and a PhD in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University (2010). Dr. Hatcher has served as a public planner and as the chair of the Board of Adjustment in Richmond, Kentucky. His research has appeared in journals, such as the Journal of Public Affairs Education, American Journal of Public Health, American Review of Public Administration, Community Development, and Public Administration Quarterly.

    The Curious Public Administrator challenges readers to appreciate other ways of knowing. Like a doorbell ringing, it alerts us to how we can mind the gap between what is and what could be.”

    Mary E. Guy, University of Colorado Denver, USA


    The Curious Public Administrator is a refreshing and long overdue look at the role of public administrators in modern society. It is the perfect book and should be required reading for anyone looking for inspiration in a public sector career.”

    Bruce D. McDonald III, Professor, NC State University, USA


    “Hatcher’s timely, enjoyably written volume utilizes literature reviews, primary data, and agency profiles to advance (significantly) our understanding of how administrative curiosity–understanding how and why something works the way it does–impacts trust, empathy, caring, public participation, and more. Stop reading this endorsement and read the book already. It’s that good.”

    Sean McCandless, University of Texas at Dallas, USA


    The Curious Public Administrator is a must for both academics and practitioners alike striving to approach public service in a holistic manner that includes acting with curiosity, empathy and critically, to better serve communities. Hatcher contributes to the call for humanizing public administration and essentially provides utilitarian guidelines for debunking the faceless bureaucrat myth.”

    Beth M. Rauhaus, University of Louisiana, Lafayette, USA


    The Curious Public Administrator is a critical read for any practitioner or scholar looking to revolutionize the field of public administration. The book clearly outlines the role administrative curiosity has in charting a future towards a new doctrine of public administration, one that is more holistic, empathetic, and innovative.”

    Sarah L. Young, Professor of Public Administration, Kennesaw State University, USA


    “A great read for students, scholars and practitioners of public administration. Hatcher explores both the history of curiosity in the field, and the practical implications of practicing and nurturing curiosity in our day-to-day work. His integration of original research along with a rigorous review of the literature provides a very interesting approach on an important but rarely discussed topic.”

    Kendra Stewart, Professor, College of Charleston, USA