It’s June, which means it’s time to recognize Texan public-sector greatness. On June 16, Larry Temple received the 17th annual Bob Bullock Award for Outstanding Public Stewardship at a dinner held in his honor. Temple has spent the last 10 years serving as executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), an agency that oversees a services budget exceeding $1.2 billion. His agency issues $2 billion annually in unemployment benefits and manages services that include training, welfare reform, child care and adult education. Temple is particularly celebrated for his focus on cutting waste and improving organizational efficiency.
Temple spent 20 years in the private sector and that experience, he said, has enabled him to succeed in government. “I’ve had the good fortune of being in the private sector and having my own businesses," he said. "That gave me a perspective that I think is very useful, particularly with the agency that I’m associated with, because we work so closely with employers in economic development and meeting their workforce needs."
Temple is credited with leading efficiency gains saving the state untold sums. Under his leadership, the state’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit program was reduced from a 184-day process to a 101-day process through an experimental pilot. In July 2013, the cycle time was further reduced to 27 days. Through that program the TWC assisted employers in identifying more than $330 million in potential tax savings in fiscal year 2013.
Temple also streamlined the RFP process, changing it from 44 steps to 18. Process time was also shortened and in one case, a process that once took two weeks now takes about a half hour.
The executive director is known as a champion of logic, appealing to the Legislature to change rules that punish state agencies for being efficient. Temple has worked with lawmakers to change how the federal government’s current funding model rewards agency efficiency by giving them less money.
Temple led the leadership of programs that have served 1.7 million Texas veterans, including the College Credit for Heroes initiative, which grew in June 2013 to include a total of 10 schools. The Hiring Red, White & You! job fairs held in 2013 also gave veteran job seekers and their spouses an opportunity to meet with more than 1,400 employers and resulted in 67 on-site hires.
Temple credited his team with enabling the work he was awarded for, and cited Ronald Reagan’s method of employing people who are smarter than he is. “As a manager, I think [the goal] is to surround yourself with the absolutely smartest people you can find,” he said. “And I’ve set that bar pretty low, so I’m not going to let my people get the big head. The value of putting together a really good team that can work together and complement the others ones’ strengths and weaknesses I think has been something that takes a while to develop.”
Success also came because the people above Temple gave him the opportunity to do so, he said. “I’ve been real lucky,” he said. “The commissioners I’ve worked for over the 10 years I’ve been the director here have given me plenty of rope to make plenty of mistakes to learn from and supported me and been really, really good to work for. I’m really lucky to be able to have that kind of relationship with my bosses.”
Temple said he isn’t ready to retire yet. “I’m having fun. It’s a great job, it’s rewarding, and as long as I can wake up every day and feel like that, I will continue driving the 30 miles into town."
In addition to leading the TWC, Temple is also a member of the state’s P-16 Council, an organization that coordinates education policy, and a member of the Texas Workforce Investment Council, where he assists in fostering an improved workforce for the state.