Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Mark W. Davis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristen B. Crossney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle L. Wade, Ph.D.


In the decades leading up to the 1960s, the majority of citizens trusted the government to do what was right. But as the country advanced toward 1970, this idyllic state transformed suddenly and unexpectedly. The decline of trust that has characterized decades ever since is of concern because there are some troubling consequences of public distrust. These impacts include disobedience, obstinance, disrespect, and selfishness. Some fear that incessant distrust threatens to erode the democratic principles on which this nation is founded. This study considers whether the way in which citizens and local public officials communicate impacts the level of public trust citizens have in their local government. This research question is based on three compelling ideas that emerge from prior literature. The first is that good communication is key to building trust. The second is that face-to-face dialog is the most effective method of communication. And third, that local government is a good place to start a trust-building effort. Sixteen specific recommendations emerge from this study, most of which pertain to public administration skills and traits. For example, the results suggest that communication characteristics like responsiveness and promptness are important factors to citizens. The results also imply that a public officials’ mannerisms – namely whether they are kind, helpful, and consistent – are important trust factors, as well. The author also considers the future of public leadership and the public administration profession through the lens of the recommendations.