Richard Lawrence, Jr. Spotlight

By NFBPA Connect posted 09-10-2019 10:16 AM

Richard Lawrence, Jr., serves as the Special Assistant to the City Manager where he works closely with to implement citywide policy initiatives on behalf of the Manager and City Council. Lawrence has over 10 years of proven success in planning, policy development and research in the public and non-profit sectors. In his previous roles Richard managed a variety of projects and initiatives, implementation of long-range and short-range projects, provided development and technical reviews, and facilitated community engagement processes. See Richard's full bio here. 

How did you become interested in being a public servant?
Pretty early in my undergraduate years studying urban planning and urban public policy I realized that my career would grounded in public service, advocacy, and community engagement. This was primarily due to understanding the impacts of planning decisions and policies to communities, especially communities of color. It was then that I knew that to affect change and advocate for voices that are underrepresented, not at the table, or at community meetings, I needed to (1) serve from within and (2) educate others about the profession and the importance of involvement in community decision making.

What is your professional background?
My professional background is in urban/city planning, urban design, architecture, and public policy. Before transitioning to the Manager’s Office last year, my career primarily focused in urban planning and development working on some of the City’s most complex and controversial master planning and development projects. Before joining the City of Alexandria, I worked in non-profit affordable housing development and as a public policy researcher.

How did you first get involved with the NFBPA?
I first became involved when the Alexandria Metropolitan Chapter was chartered within my organization. The chapter leadership encourage me to engage as part of the emerging leaders committee and the rest is history. Shortly after, I participated and graduated from the Mentor Program, became 2nd VP, 1st VP, joined a few national committees, and was elected as Chapter President in 2017.

How has being an ELI graduate/or Mentor Program helped further your career?
I proudly represent the 2015 Mentor class, the Notorious 9 (N9)! The Mentor Program not only provided me with a great mentor, life-long friendships and a built-in professional network, but it helped develop my leadership and interpersonal skills. I was able to perform more confidently in my position at the time, identify my strengths and contributions to my organization, and chart the course for my future career objectives.

What does a typical day look like for you?
The great thing about my work is that there are no typical days. This keeps the nature of my work exciting and engaging. Working at the highest level of the organization, there may a time sensitive project that gets thrown my way by the Manager or I may be asked to explore the feasibility or gather additional information about a proposed initiative; an inquiry may come in from the Mayor or other council members, or a citizen at any moment can request details about a City initiative. Managing multi-agency initiatives and coordinating multi-departmental collaboration and partnerships would be a consistent part of my current work in addition to managing the implementation of the City Council Work Program.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Public Administration profession?
This is a tough one. While it may not be the biggest, I think it may be the most important challenge, and that is engaging younger people to find value in and understand of a career in public administration; even changing the mindset of who identifies as a public administrator. Often times, I find that we can often limit our perspective solely based on our job title; at least that was the case for me. Prior to joining NFBPA and attending my first FORUM, I considered myself an urban planner/urban designer. I didn’t consider my professional title as falling under the umbrella of public administration. Engaging more deeply into the organization expanded my perspective of what public administration is, who public administrators are, the vast array of professions that fall under its scope, and the impact administrators have on communities.

What are you looking forward to most in the next 5 to 10 years?
Professionally, I’m most looking forward to how my career will grow into greater levels of leadership and influence, possibly becoming a City Manager one day.

What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is seeing the physical changes to the City and the improved quality of life that impacts the lives of members of my community.

What do you do when you're not working?
Outside of work, I own my own photography company and love to travel. Often times the two are intertwined. I’m an adventurist, foodie, and like trying new experiences.

Anything else you'd like us to know?
Being a part of the NFBPA has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. It is an invaluable professional organization but more that, members really have the opportunity to develop deep relationships and be a part of a family.