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Kenneth S. Apfel joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy as Professor of the Practice in 2006.  He served as the Academic Director of the School’s Management, Finance and Leadership Program until his semi-retirement in 2017. His primary teaching and research interests are in public leadership and management as well as in social policy, with a particular focus on health care and retirement issues. He is also actively engaged at the university with leadership and management training activities for American and international public executives.

Before joining the School of Public Policy, Apfel held the Sid RichardsonChair in Public Affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the University of Texas at Austin. While at the University of Texas, he established the Center on Health and Social Policy and co-edited and contributed to a three book series on the future of retirement and health security in the US.  

Apfel has received several teaching awards since joining academia in 2001, including the Teacher of the Year Award from graduate students at the University of Texas and the Excellence in Teaching Award from graduate students at the University of Maryland. 

Apfel was elected in 2000 as a Fellow at both the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Academy of Social Insurance. From 2008 to 2010, Apfel served as the Chair of the Board at the National Academy of Social Insurance, and from 2009 to 2011 served as the Board Chair of the National Academy of Public Administration. 

He served from 2011-7 on the Maryland Health Exchange Board, the entity responsible for the implementation of health reform in Maryland. He is also a longstanding Board member at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and until recently was the President of the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis.  

Apfel spent the Spring 2014 semester as a Fulbright scholar in India at the National Council for Applied Economic Research, researching India’s health insurance and public pension policies.   

Prior to his academic appointment in 2001, Apfel served as the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) from 1997 until 2001. He was the first Senate-confirmed Commissioner of Social Security after SSA became an Independent Agency and Congress authorized the new Cabinet-level position.  

As Commissioner, Apfel brought a lifetime of leadership and public service experience to a position that has frequently been described as having one of the most complex and challenging public management challenges in the federal government.  He was responsible for the actions of approximately 65,000 employees who, among other responsibilities, provide monthly benefits to over 60 million persons and serve the needs of millions of visitors each year to the agency’s 1,300 field offices. 

During his tenure as Commissioner, Apfel was deeply involved in efforts to strengthen the long-term solvency of Social Security.   He significantly strengthened the policy, planning and public education activities at the Social Security Administration.  He also played a leadership role in efforts to strengthen the childhood disability programs, to expand retirement planning services, to enable persons with disabilities to return to work and to enable Americans to apply for benefits online.  In addition, he served from 1997-1999 as a member of the President’s Management Council.

Prior to SSA, Apfel was at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Executive Office of the President, where he served since 1995 as the Associate Director for Human Resource Programs.  His responsibilities included budget, policy and management review of all the human resource agencies of the Federal government, including the SSA, the Departments of Labor and Education and parts of the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.  In this capacity, he was centrally involved in efforts to reform welfare and to strengthen federal education and training programs.

Prior to his appointment at OMB, Apfel served as Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  He was nominated by President Clinton in March 1993 and was subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  In this capacity, Apfel served as the senior budget official and chief financial officer for HHS.  He formulated and executed the third largest budget in the world -- a $700 billion budget for a department staffed nationwide by 125,000 people.  He served as a member of the President’s working group on welfare reform and the Secretary’s task force on Head Start.

Prior to his HHS appointment, Apfel worked for two decades in the areas of social and budget policy.  From 1989-1993, he served as legislative director to Senator Bill Bradley, overseeing the formulation and development of all aspects of congressional policy making. During 1982-1989, he was Senator Bradley’s chief staff person for Federal social and budget policy, with a particular focus on the Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs under the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee.

From 1980-1982, Apfel served as committee staff for human resource programs for the US Senate Budget Committee.  From 1978-1980, he served a Presidential Management Fellowship at the U. S. Department of Labor.  He was a college administrator from 1973-1976 at Newbury College in Massachusetts, coordinating a grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to provide outreach and remediation to veterans.

Apfel received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1970; a master’s degree in rehabilitation, Northeastern University, Boston, 1973; and a master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, 1978. In 2016, he successfully completed Harvard University’s executive training on The Art and Practice of Leadership Development

He is happily married to Caroline Hadley and they have two sons, Derek and Dana and two grandkids.

Areas of Interest
  • Public management and leadership, retirement policy, healthcare policy