July 2020 Student Spotlight
Charles Anderson, Executive MPA ’21
Director of Community Affairs for the NYS Assembly Charles Anderson tells us about his role in service of the Office of Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, his Marxe Executive MPA experience, and what keeps him driven in his career in government.
Tell us about your role as Director of Community Affairs at New York State Assembly. What are some of the most difficult challenges you’ve faced and overcome? What issues have proven insurmountable?
As the Director of Community Affairs for New York State Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, I work with the local community to manage the impacts of legislation in the district. A large portion of my role involves managing the office’s relationship with members of the community and ensuring that people have realistic expectations of what a government office can achieve. I work to communicate our positions effectively to the public and address issues as they arise. Because I do not work directly with legislation every day, I spend more time navigating how the City and State interact in the lives of our constituents. Hudson River Park is a great example of where competing priorities and jurisdictions create challenges for elected officials and community members. A long-standing problem has been the redevelopment of some of the park piers along the Hudson River, and because it is technically a state park any changes must happen in legislation. Finding an affordable government solution that benefits local park users but is also not a giveaway to corporate interests is challenging. The current political environment demonstrates how transparency in political offices or agencies is paramount when communicating with the public. It can be difficult to establish a sense of trust that will allow public policy professionals to ensure the best version of legislation is passed.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned thus far during your Executive MPA experience at the Marxe School? Have you noticed any significant improvements or expansions to your professional skillsets?
The Executive MPA program has been incredibly fulfilling academically and also instrumental in developing my professional skills. Earlier this year our cohort took Public & Non-Profit Management with Professor John Casey and Eboné Carrington. This class helped me to understand different management styles and we were candid about what has been successful or unsuccessful in our workplaces. In reality, poor management within government offices or agencies produce unfavorable results in public policy and continue to engender the feeling that government is failing. While it is possible to develop management practices from on-the-job experience, an academic study provides an environment where a student can question reasoning and motives without the fear of making a detrimental error. We discussed public management practices in class as the COVID-19 Pandemic began and our city was most affected. Working in an office that is directly responding to the issues and events of this year—the pandemic, protests against police brutality, and civil unrest—has allowed me to apply a range of skills learned in my courses to better serve the public. I am gaining knowledge that I would struggle to find elsewhere.
What made you interested in working in government? What keeps you working in government?
When I was in high school, my school district proposed to rezone the high school feeder system in a way that resulted in more racial segregation in our schools. My parents offered to take me to the school board hearings on the rezoning plan and I was fascinated by the public processes that were at work. Notably, it seemed that power and decision-making authority were highly concentrated in a few people, and if those affected by the change are slow to respond they could be unable to alter any proposals or plans. I remember wanting to understand how our democratic system worked and was interested in what I could do to improve outcomes for communities. When I was in undergrad, I joined a campus political club and interned in the state legislature where I saw how legislative politics affects everyone’s life. I greatly enjoy finding solutions to problems that work and are equitable. I feel that in the last few years, and certainly this year, we have seen where the shortcomings of government and society can harm people. I continue working in government because I feel that we can develop solutions through public policy that create a more just, equal, and productive society. This is a salient moment to be supplementing my professional experience in government with further education, and I am excited to see how our society responds to the most pressing issues.