From the military to the public service

Meriden, CT

From the Military to the Public Service:
Thanks to the GI Bill and The American Legion

Roger L. Kemp, Ph.D.

My active-duty military time gave me an appreciation for public service and the opportunity to get the education I wanted. My membership in The American Legion let me network with fellow veterans, and provided me with a knowledge of possible available internships and information on possible employment opportunities in my field of study – public service.
The military taught me the value of public service and the need to have a good education. In the military service I learned skills that made a significant difference in my life. I was honored to serve our nation during my military service. It made me want to continue to serve the public in future years. When I returned to civilian life, I went to night school on the GI Bill for nearly 15 years — and never missed a semester!
After completing a B.S. (Bachelor of Science) degree and a MPA (Master of Public Administration) degree at San Diego State University, I found a job in the Office of City Manager in the City of Oakland, Calif. I still had time left on the GI Bill, so I set my sights on a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree in public administration in California. There were only two of these doctoral programs in public administration in the state at the time. I chose the one at Golden Gate University, which is located in San Francisco, across the bay from Oakland.
It took me five years to complete it, one night class per semester while working full-time in Oakland. The same month I received my Ph.D., I went from being an assistant to the City Manager in the City of Oakland to becoming a City Manager in the City of Seaside, Calif.. And I have served as a city manager ever since that time — in Southern California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and then back in Northern California. Every place I was a city manager, I taught courses in an MPA program at night at the local public university. It was easy to get a teaching assignment as an adjunct professor with my MPA from San Diego State University, my Ph.D. in public administration, and my experience as a city manager.
Over the years I have published, or been a contributing author to, nearly 50 books on various topics related to public management, ranging from strategic planning in local governments to the preservation of our natural resources. My book on the best practices in homeland security was made available to every city manager in America. Getting college degrees on the GI Bill changed my life! It greatly enhanced my public service career, and provided me with the opportunity to teach at some of the leading universities throughout the nation during my public service career.
I encourage young people to serve in one of the branches of our military service, and to receive the subsequent benefits provided to them under the GI Bill , like I did. It will help them achieve their personal and career goals in cities and states throughout America, “the land of opportunity.” The GI Bill paid for my entire education, which has served me well throughout my lifetime. Other young people have the same opportunity!
Students should also join national membership associations, like The American Legion. These groups have regular meetings and workshops, and help you network with other citizens and public officials. It also provides an opportunity for young people to acquire a knowledge of possible internships and employment opportunities in their field.
Memberships in associations like The American Legion will enhance a young person’s resume, too. Students, especially graduate students, should join respected national membership organizations like The American Legion. Like the GI Bill helps you achieve your educational goals, your membership in The American Legion will help you achieve your desired employment goals in the public and private sectors.


Roger L. Kemp, AA, BS, MPA, MBA, Ph.D., has been a career city manager in CA, CT and NJ. He is currently a Professional in Residence at the University of New Haven, and a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University. He served 6 years in the United States Coast Guard (active duty and reserve), and lives in the City of Meriden, CT. He can be reached via email at

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