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What is an Appointee?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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An appointee is someone who is named to fill a position, usually by someone in a higher ranking position. For example, a head of state can appoint cabinet members to provide advice with decision making. The mechanisms for political appointments vary, depending on the country, the level of government, and the position.

When an official is empowered to appoint someone to fill a position, the official must choose an appointee with care. Officials look first for people who are qualified to fill a given position because they have relevant experience. For example, if the appointment is to a position heading up a government agency, that appointee may be looked for among people who already work for the agency, as these people have experience in the agency and are familiar with it.

Another key issue when selecting an appointee is political leanings. While some positions are supposed to be apolitical in nature, decisions people make are undoubtedly influenced by their politics. Thus, someone does not want to select an appointee who will use the appointment to make contradictory political decisions. For example, a city council member who is opposed to urban sprawl and is charged with appointing someone to the planning commission would look for someone with a similar approach to development, such as a person who wants to promote density in urban areas.

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Moral and ethical fitness for the job are also important considerations. Because appointees are selected, rather than elected, members of the public tend to scrutinize them closely. The public may be concerned that people are buying positions or obtaining them through nepotism, rather than by honest skill and ability. As a result, people who have conflicts of interest or who are viewed as morally questionable are less likely to be appointees, as politicians do not want to be criticized for their appointments.

In some cases, once someone has been appointed to fill a position, that designee can be sworn in to start work right away. In others, there must be a confirmation process. This tends to be common with powerful political positions. During confirmation hearings, other members of government investigate an appointee to determine whether or not the appointee is fit for the job. This investigation includes interviews, reviews of financial paperwork, and other steps that are designed to uncover problems such as a lack of fitness for duty. At the close of the hearings, there is a vote to determine whether or not the appointee should be confirmed.

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