Duncan Fowler has had extensive experience as the professional legislative ombudsman for the State of Alaska, and King County, Washington. He was the Deputy Ombudsman for the State of Iowa. In his 23-½ year period as an ombudsman, he managed large and small offices with inquiry workloads ranging from 2,000 to 14,000 of citizen complaints annually. His office sizes ranged from single offices with 3-10 staff to three regional offices with up to 30.
He worked with both agency heads and legislators to introduce and implement legislation that improved the responsiveness and accountability of government. He designed and implemented several state-of-the-art complaint management systems for both mainframe and server computing environments. The most recent system was developed for the State of Iowa, and was used by several jurisdictions.
He has been acknowledged nationally as an expert in governmental ombudsman issues and has served on the American Bar Association’s committee during the development of their ombudsman standards. He was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership to the United States Ombudsman Association for his contributions to the profession. He served as an officer and board member of USOA for approximately 10 years. He has presented training classes on a wide range of subjects from the development of policy and procedure manuals, the independence of the ombudsman, how to make a good annual report, as well as others.
Duncan consulted with legislators and staff during the creation of the Arizona State Ombudsman Office. He did extensive work with the Region X EPA Office in setting up the new ombudsman position. He did an extensive review of a large midwestern county ombudsman office for their legislative body. That review compared the operation of that county’s ombudsman operation to the Standards for Governmental Ombudsman Offices that have been created by the United States Ombudsman Association. (USOA is the largest and oldest governmental ombudsman association in the United States.) This was the first comprehensive review of an ombudsman office using those criteria. It resulted in specific recommendations that the county legislature could adopt to bring the office into compliance with those model standards. (A copy of that public document is available on request.)
Duncan reviewed the Code Enforcement policies and practices and how staff implemented them for a large Pacific Northwest county. The project involved working with managers and staff in the development of decision or work flow trees to increase the efficiency and consistency enforcement decisions by enforcement officers. The project also required evaluating existing codes and making recommendations for changes which would support more efficient use of limited staff and implement new funding sources by identifying specific decision points in the enforcement process.
He served on the Washington State Ombudsman Committee for the Special Commitment Center, a treatment facility for sexual offenders who have completed their sentence but are still not safe enough to release to the community. The committee was established to comply with a Federal Court Injunction.
Other experiences that have been useful in shaping Duncan’s expertise have included being the director of a large municipal agency with a five million dollar budget that had to be reduced by 20% in staffing minimizing the programmatic impact as a result of government wide budget reductions. He has been a probation-parole officer and served as the Corrections Specialist for Alaska’s Criminal Justice Planning Agency.
Duncan is married to Sally Plank Fowler who has faithfully followed him on his professional moves all across the country and back with their three kids. Both Duncan and Sally grew up in Minneapolis before they ventured to Alaska. They now live in Buffalo, Minnesota, close to one of their daughters and two of their grandchildren.