By Brenda Erickson
Ray Pethtel, a pioneer in the field of legislative program evaluation, died Sept. 12.
Pethtel spent much of his 83 years pursuing excellence in government services. He began his government career in New York, first at the state’s budget office and then at the New York Assembly. He moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the American Society of Public Administration, an organization that still advocates for greater effectiveness in government.
He returned to New York to become assistant director of the Commission on Expenditure Review, which was charged to make comprehensive studies of state programs and expenditures and to evaluate their achievements through program-wide audits.
In 1973, Pethtel became the first director of the newly formed Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. He was active in NCSL during its early years, serving on the NCSL Executive Committee from 1976-1979. Pethtel played a key role in the formation of the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society.
As current Virginia JLARC Director Hal Greer notes, “He was one of the true pioneers in the development of legislative program evaluation.” John Turcotte, who retired earlier this month after four decades of legislative service, listed Pethtel as one of the “conceptualizers” of NLPES in his history of the association.
Pethtel served eight years as commissioner of Virginia Department of Transportation. He then became the director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and he also taught public administration programs at Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University.
During his lifetime, Pethtel received numerous awards for outstanding achievement, including Penn State Alumni Fellow, Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Hall of Fame, New Century Region High Tech Leadership Award and Virginia Tech University Transportation Fellow.
Ray Pethtel leaves an enduring legacy. May this knowledge bring peace to his family and friends.
Brenda Erickson is NCSL’s liaison to the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society, one of NCSL’s nine professional staff associations.