What are you most proud of in your career to date?
I’ve worked in government, nonprofit, and private sector roles. I found the greatest and most lasting change occurs when these three sectors work together. I’m therefore most proud of my coalition-building efforts, initiatives where I reached out to unintuitive potential allies to propose solutions to a common problem. Coalition-building is popularly built around passing legislation, but regulation has personally proven to be a ripe opportunity for success. Many potential allies aren’t familiar with the federal and state regulatory processes where legislation takes on life. Regulatory processes can be arcane and are scarcely taught inside the classroom. For those who put in the effort, showing regulators that you have a broad, multi-sector coalition will often prove the strength of your public policy idea more than any study or slide deck.
What is a story/example you tell others about the importance of the work you do?
Today, renewable energy is the second-largest source of U.S. electricity production, more than nuclear, more than coal, more than oil. Renewable energy is now a large and profitable industry. This tremendous recent growth of carbon-free resources did not happen by accident or solely because of private sector action. It happened because of forward-looking public policy, and most centrally because of Federal tax incentives that lowered the amount of capital needed to deploy renewable energy. This tax policy was analogous to seed funding on a massive scale, all without picking specific companies as winners and losers. It allowed economies of scale to flourish and an industry to be born. For several years, I worked on policies to refine and expand these tax incentives. Though they were financial line items of more interest to accountants than the average American voter, these policies have proven vital not just to our energy mix but to the future of our planet as well.
Why does public policy matter in 2021 and beyond? How has it evolved (if you think it has)?
Public policies are the initiatives we undertake together rather than on our own. Today, the challenges of the world are immense, and therefore more issues than ever before require the collective action of public policy. If we’re to leave a sustainable world for the next generation, public policy is unavoidable as an avenue for our efforts. There’s simply no other way to get the job done.
How would you describe Sanford’s contribution to public policy over the past 50 years?
I was fortunate enough to enter public service immediately after college graduation, and I came to Sanford with that professional experience in hand. I therefore think of Sanford as having “formalized” my skillset. While I had prior on-the-job training, Sanford gave me the tools—in areas like writing, statistics, and theories of advocacy—to apply my good intentions as effectively as possible. That, I think, is Sanford’s contribution to public policy. Much as a bicycle amplifies human power in forward momentum, Sanford amplifies our good intentions into lasting public policy success.
Sanford’s mission is to improve lives and communities by researching the most pressing public policy issues and preparing students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service. What would you say to a current student at Sanford – a word of advice or something you wish you knew when you were graduating?
There’s a popular expression in Washington, DC that “personnel are policy.” It’s a reminder that the people with authority to develop and implement policies will inherently influence the direction and efficacy of those policies through their own education, experience, biases, and so forth. To current students at Sanford, you are the personnel of tomorrow. Public policies are not created in a vacuum. No matter where you end up, you will have some degree of influence on the effectiveness of public policy. That’s good, but it also comes with responsibility. Learn all you can on topics when engaging, be humble about the things you don’t know, and be confident about the things you do.
What is the most important skill that policy students should learn?
Write well. Sanford teaches this, but in the workforce it’s not just about writing a good paper or a clear memo. Be concise in your emails and direct in your questions. Fewer, more targeted sentences can help organize your arguments and transfer to all areas of your work.
Any other thoughts to add? Please also share recent accomplishments and awards we should update in the profile, and any related links you wish to share.
I currently lead utility policy at Electrify America, which operates the nation’s largest open electric vehicle charging network. I previously served as Director of Regulatory Affairs at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), leading national renewable energy advocacy at federal and state agencies. Prior to ACORE, I worked at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, helping to keep the nation’s lights on. I was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the Department’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (REEEAC). REEEAC members advise the Secretary on ways to enhancing the export competitiveness of the U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. I also served on the advisory committee of the Columbia-Johns Hopkins Future Power Markets Forum, which brings practitioners, experts and regulators together to investigate market design proposals for a deeply decarbonized electricity system.