James J. Haag, M.P.A. '66 receives 2021 M.P.A. Distinguished Graduate Award

This year's Master of Public Administration Distinguished Graduate Award recipient is James Haag '66. James received his Master of Public Administration degree from Wayne State University in 1966. He received his bachelor's degree in history from the University of Detroit Mercy in 1963.

James began his career as an intern at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. He was then hired as a research associate, where his main responsibilities included city/township consolidation and municipal administrative studies. He credits his time there and the people he worked with as what first got him interested in good government.

His next position was at the University of Maine, where he began as a research associate and then became Assistant Director for Research. His work there included numerous publications on topics such as a statewide property tax assessment and a series and town and city charter commissions.

From 1973 to 1992, James worked for the New York State Legislative Commission on Expenditure Review, the legislature's nonpartisan staff agency, beginning as publications coordinator and eventually becoming the director. His work initially involved layout, effective presentation, and publication of reports that assessed state government program effectiveness but later involved directing multidisciplinary teams in planning and implementing program audits.

His next position was at the Michigan House Fiscal Agency (HFA), where he served as a nonpartisan staff director. He had a big task in front of him there as the previous director had been indicted for fraudulent actions, so he had to work to restore public confidence in the HFA. There he created the Fiscal Focus, Fundamentals, and Forum publications, teaching materials, and recorded cassettes specifically to help newly elected representatives understand the complexities of Michigan state government budgeting, finance, and taxation. Confidence in the HFA was restored in 1995, and he continued to serve as the director until 1999.

Finally, James worked for the North Carolina Commerce Department as the director of research, analyzing community development and job creation programs. He identified communities in need and helped them attract and grow jobs, evaluated the effectiveness of the job credit program, and articulated the state's motor vehicle parts and accessories cluster.

Jim retired in 2006. Today he enjoys church and community volunteer efforts, playing banjo and guitar in bands, and traveling to visit his three grown children and ten grandchildren with his wife Terri. He also recently wrote the only history of the New York State Legislative Commission on Expenditure Review.

He credits his time at the Citizens Research Council as what first sparked his interest in public service and good government. "Lent Upson's good government philosophy was a dominant influence in my 42 years of public service", he said. His advice to current MPA students is to "get to know your professors and to do internships to gain experience."

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