An interview with an Advisory Services panel expert:
What are some of the rewards of serving on a panel?
Panels force you to collaborate with your team members to figure out how to get something thoughtful done and to have varying opinions coming from different places and different disciplines. That’s always a challenge, and the payoff is the reward of getting the thing done. You get to see how the interplay of teamwork is extremely helpful.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a panelist?
I would say a challenge when you’re new is thinking you can get through the massive amount of information you have to digest, get connected quickly with the local aspects of the assignment, and then be part of a team environment where you actually produce a quality work product. One thing that always puts butterflies in my stomach is when you go to a new locality and you don’t really know what to expect, although sometimes you have some preconceived notions of how it should play out. It’s always a challenge to make sure you put those preconceived notions to the side and listen to what folks are trying to describe to you as their issues and the kind of thoughts and solutions that they are really looking for in order to make change in the physical environment. That to me is always something that is challenging in a good way.
How have you benefited from volunteering as a panelist? How have Advisory Services panels had an impact on your work?
For me, the benefits have been tremendous. My entire ULI experience has been tremendous. I always encourage people who are interested in land use and urban design to get involved. I’m involved in hands-on community development activities that happen in major metropolitan areas. I’m usually working at my day job to change the status quo in lower-income, distressed communities of color that may have been discounted as a legitimate opportunity to create value. The fact that ULI has a passion for trying to be part of those solutions through panels gave me the ability to interact with people all across the country who are involved in similar activities that I’m involved in. That kind of relationship building and camaraderie is valuable to me.
What would you say to a ULI member who is considering participating in a panel for the first time? Any words of encouragement or advice?
If you have a passion for this kind of work and you’re looking for an opportunity where you can actually feel like you’re doing something that is valuable, I would say there is probably no more valuable way to engage yourself with ULI than by being involved in an Advisory Services activity, whether it be a national panel or a local Technical Assistance Panel [TAP]. You get to interact with people who are all interested in giving back and crafting thoughtful solutions around the mission of ULI. Get beyond your initial fear that you don’t have something to offer. You have expertise, and we want you to lend that expertise to ULI. Once you get through it once, I have found that people get hooked on these panels. Your work and your talent are very much needed.
Favorite panel memory?
My favorite panel is probably West Palm Beach. From an implementation standpoint, out of the ones I’ve participated in, that’s the one that’s gotten the closest to doing a lot of the recommendations that came out of the panel process. That to me is the ultimate test of the value of a panel, when you can get to the point where you energize the folks who are looking for solutions and they grab hold of your solutions and make it happen.
What are your professional interests?
I’ve been in this world of community development finance on the nonprofit side for the bulk of my career. I enjoy it; it’s immensely rewarding professionally and personally.
What was your childhood dream job?
As a child growing up, I don’t know that I was a big dreamer. I come from a family of ten kids, and when you’re the eighth out of ten I always tell people that you have to just be happy you made the cut.
I grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and I was 11 years old during the first Watts riot. My notion of community and ownership is somewhat formed by that experience as a child. Eventually, I decided I needed to do something about L.A. getting set on fire every ten to 20 years.
What was the last book you read?
The Mayor by Richard Riordan. I actually worked in the mayor’s office when he got elected and I was there for about two years.
Panels I've served on: