In keeping with NASPE’s mission to have leaders share current, effective and leading practices, this collection of essays will become a powerful tool for peers and future leaders to learn from, gain inspiration and develop best practices. 

NASPE is grateful to Infor for their sponsorship of this project.

Kelly Hardwick
Executive Director
Mississippi State Personnel Board

Pontifications of an Interloper

There is a fairly popular sitcom that goes by the moniker “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” That’s where I came from. I’m a recovering attorney. Much like Frank in “It’s Always Sunny,” I was the redeemed overseer of schemes, conspiracies and adventures for clients. The main foray into personnel issues was with clients where the conversation went something like this: “I fired Charlie today because he showed up drunk again. Can you tell the owner, Bob (who happened to be Charlie’s uncle)?” Or Mildred in H.R. calls with the even more likely scenario of: “Sarah beat up Mindy because Mindy was flirting with Charlie.” The back story is always that Charlie and Sarah are now married but Mindy is Charlie’s ex-wife who divorced him because he was running around with Katie from accounting. Chaos and confusion rules the day. But come to think of it, state government personnel issues aren’t really much different. Other than the state government sitcom is much more sophisticated like, say, “Cheers.”


Byron P. Decoteau Jr., MSHLD, PHR., SHRM-CP
Louisiana State Civil Service

A Leader?

I never intentionally set out to be a leader. As a child, I recall being an introvert who found solace in being left to my own imagination. Leadership, in my opinion, was reserved for extraordinary individuals. I for one, never viewed myself as extraordinary.

Let me take you back to my childhood for a brief moment. I vividly remember a small keepsake book titled “My School Years”. The book contained pages dedicated to each year of elementary school. The main highlight was capturing the journey from kindergarten to eighth grade through a series of awkward yearbook photos, but that’s not the point for taking you down memory lane. What I find interesting is the fact that listed under the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I consistently listed a school bus driver until the fourth grade. Fortunately for those traveling the streets of Louisiana, that aspiration did not come to fruition. However, it ironically plays a big part in my career as I will explain later.

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Kate Sheehan
Division of Personnel and Labor Relations
Alaska Department of Administration

Are leaders born or made?

I was born with assertiveness, ambition, stubbornness and inquisitiveness. But I wasn't born a leader. That was learned. Probably one of the most asked questions when the topic of leadership comes up. My initial reaction was always born, of course. But recently I’ve begun thinking about being the leader of my division and the qualities I, hopefully, demonstrate. Then it became clear that I most certainly wasn’t born with all these traits but learned them from others – both my supervisors and co-workers. Yes, I was born with assertiveness, ambition, stubbornness, and inquisitiveness. However, there is so much more to my leadership style than those characteristics.

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Rebecca Hunter CPA, SPHR
Tennessee Department of Human Resources

Journey to Human Resources

Growing up as a “preacher’s kid” and number six of fourteen children, I had no way of knowing that both of these factors would ultimately serve as the foundation for my career. Living in the fishbowl with so many siblings prepared me not only for a career in public service where transparency is critical to success, but also to lead a team, as I was always the cheerleader and peacemaker for my siblings.

My first job out of college with an Accounting Degree was as a payroll clerk for the City of Chattanooga. Although this role didn’t require a degree, I learned everything I could about payroll processes and began building my customer service foundation, since payroll touches everyone in the organization.