Public Administration ETDs

Publication Date



A study has been carried out in an effort to determine the impact of citizen participation on public policy making in a high status, high income community. Los Alamos County, New Mexico, was chosen as the subject for this work.

After an introductory section on the history of citizen participation, a number of hypotheses ar introduced for testing the impact of citizen participation on County policy making in Los Alamos. Background material on the County’s history and character is added to aid the reader’s understanding of the operation of the community’s voluntary associations and public bodies.

The institutionalized forms of citizen participation, the elected County Council and appointed advisory boards, are examined and contrasted with the actions and philosophies of dissenting individuals. Finally, four recent cases of citizen participatory action which were important in Los Alamos are closely examined.

The following conclusions are made concerning the County: Socio-economic status is positively related to membership in voluntary organizations and to the level of political activity. Los Alamos County, a high income, high status community, has a high level of voluntary association membership and a high level of political activity. The more a person is active in such voluntary organizations, the more likely he is to be active politically, and conversely.

Most citizen participation is undertaken though membership in some sort of group, formal or informal. Collective action is seen to be more effective than individual action, even in cases where most of the work is done b one or two individuals.

There is no one power elite in Los Alamos county: each issue brings out a different set of affected or interested citizens.

In the County, which has a “reformed” council-manager form of government, the manager and his staff are the principal sources of policy innovation and leadership.

Opposition to local government is easy to mobilize and effectively organized in this community because of the high level of membership in, and the existing communications network of voluntary associations.

Citizen groups do act as innovators of public policy (contrary to the views of some researchers in this field), especially in the areas of civic betterment and social problem solving.

Recommendations for further work in this field are also included.

Degree Name

Public Administration

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Public Administration

First Committee Member (Chair)

Donald Winston Smithburg

Second Committee Member

Charles E Spath

Third Committee Member

Paul Thorleif Therkildsen



Document Type