Article entitled “Stuck in the Middle: The Challenges of Local Government Administration of Post-Hurricane Disaster Mitigation” was just accepted for publication at IJMED, led by my co-author Leah Campbell. It is a companion piece, in a sense, to our work on (Mis)trusting the process, in that it relies on much of the same data and also focuses on local government’s role in buyout programs. However, while the prior article focused on the role of trust between different levels of government and the residents, this one focuses on the precarious position of local government officials and how they have the greatest direct responsibility to their constituents, but often have the least power in the HMGP process.
The use of buyouts as a climate change adaptation and risk reduction strategy has become increasingly common. Little research to-date, however, has examined the experience of local administrators of buyouts, despite the critical role they play as on-the-ground implementors. We interviewed 18 county and town officials from North Carolina who administered the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Our goal was to better understand the difficulties local administrators face in program implementation and the complexities of their relationship with other program stakeholders. We identified several recurring challenges facing these officials, including limited capacity; staff turnover, program delays; and a lack of flexibility, clarity, and communication. These issues make implementation challenging for administrators and strain their relationships with program participants and higher levels of government, in turn reducing program success and credibility. These results provide valuable insight into the perspective and experience of local administrators as HMGP implementers.