Harry Black grew up in the inner city of Baltimore, and saw the impact that good and bad public policy had on his gritty neighborhood. After college, Black worked in several local government positions, giving him opportunities to grow and succeed. Eventually, Black returned to his hometown, but instead of landing in the inner city where he grew up, he took a job as the city’s new chief financial officer, with a corner office in city hall.
“With my personal circumstances growing up in the inner city, I saw what the power of public service could be in terms of making a difference in the lives of people, particularly disadvantaged people,” said Black. “So, I’ve committed myself to trying to make a difference.”
After bolstering Baltimore’s finances, Black moved to Cincinnati to fulfill a longtime dream and became a city manager. Though he admits he was not ready to leave his hometown, he knew he had to take the chance to pursue his goal. Then, one day out of the blue, Black received a phone call from the mayor of Stockton, Calif.
Black has been the city manager of Stockton for barely four months but is already helping the city implement plans and develop ideas on how best to respond to the protests over the death of George Floyd, while balancing the financial devastation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
He hopes to change the perspective of his new city. Black wants people to know that Stockton is not a broken city, but a place with an opportunity for optimization and enhancement. He hopes to take advantage of the uniqueness of Stockton to produce jobs, housing solutions and positive change to combat social and racial inequities while strengthening the community.
“It’s not just the death of George Floyd, but it’s people using that as an opportunity to really vocalize inequities, injustice,” he explained. “And we’ve got to pay attention to this.”
Listen to the episode to hear more about Harry Black’s unique path to becoming one of Stockton’s leaders, his love for cooking savory foods and his determination to help Stockton and the rest of the nation become more equitable and just.
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