Chad West: Activating an Historical and Diverse Community and Staying Accessible
Season 1 | Episode 3 | August 1, 2019
Citizenship is a chance to make a difference in the place where you belong.
First a look behind the curtain. I had the chance to see Chad West in action when our technology broke down and his tech-support partner had to switch out his laptop. A half-hour ticked away, and I was getting antsy about having enough time for a meaningful interview.
This breakdown afforded me the gift of eavesdropping on Chad as he continued to work calmly with his assistant in the background, answering a few questions and ultimately delaying his next meeting so that we had enough time for the interview.
Chad had previously shared with me that he is a stickler about keeping commitments. Integrity is high on his list of virtues. I witnessed him walking his talk while also staying kind and generous with employees. This recollection reassures me that we elected the right person for Oak Cliff and for Dallas.
I’ve included Notes from our conversation as well as Reflections + Practical Applications, below.
First Impressions and Accessibility
- Accessibility to constituents and clients is important to Chad and is expected for a City Council Member (CM). I experienced that firsthand when he personally answered my call and accepted the podcast interview invitation without a previous introduction.
- To balance his extreme availability, he’s sure to bake downtime into the end of his day for reading or other solitary activities.
Balancing the Whole and Parts
- I wondered about competing commitments between District 1 (D-1, our district) and the City’s vision and goals. (There is a natural and constant flow of attention and resources to various elements of any healthy system or organization – just look in nature!)
- A CM has to stay connected with what the voters want and move the city ball forward.
- Unique challenges of D1: we’re one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dallas with the original street grid, old infrastructure and tons of new development.
- Importance of public engagement:
- Chad’s goal is to make sure people understand the issues, agendas, and plans by communicating in eye-catching ways, i.e. graphs, pictures, maps.
- On the flip-side, neighborhood feedback is very important when trying to encourage developers to include pedestrian & neighborhood-friendly elements in their projects.
- The CM has a more powerful influence with developers and at City Hall if citizens are engaged and vocal at meetings.
- Engagement also poses challenges. People will question Chad, and rightly so. While this creates more work, lack of engagement causes a neighborhood to lose its character.
- Chad is working to build trust in lower-engagement neighborhoods by attending non-city events and getting to know the neighbors so that they, too, are able to influence their future.
- Building relationships and trust with other Council Members is super important for moving both the city and individual districts forward.
- Chad expects to visit other CM districts and learn about their vision and challenges
- He will invite other CMs to visit D-1 to experience ours
Holding the Vision and Integrating Thought Leadership
- Chad embodies the excitement of seeing 10 – 20 years of planning come to fruition in Oak Cliff and the Bishop Arts District.
- Oak Cliff is a gem with 100-year-old street-car informed grids and adjacent neighborhoods. Bishop Arts is a great example.
- In the plans: Oak Farms, a mixed-use development with workforce housing, market-rate housing, retail, and plazas.
- Two major streets will be repurposed. The new streetcar between downtown Dallas and North Oak Cliff, pedestrians and bicycles will be routed to one street, with cars on the other. This will improve safety and accessibility.
- D Magazine’s New Urbanism edition included an article by Oak Cliff resident and Urbanism expert, Patrick Kennedy: Bishop Arts Can Be a Model for Southern Dallas Development
- We’re 10 years in with great success and a positive trajectory.
- Extensive meetings with neighbors are ongoing regarding plans for their neighborhoods. They are almost unanimous about wanting to bring new life to old centers (formerly streetcar stops), but there is concern about parking, overflow, traffic and the intense usage experienced in Bishop Arts.
- NIMBY – Not In My Backyard
- Its critical to have good public input and dialogue with neighbors in the area.
- Complete Streets
- Urban design with a focus on the people who live in nearby neighborhoods rather than how to move traffic through quickly. The design includes commercial and retail on both sides, pedestrian and bike safety, traffic safety.
- There’s a focus on preserving single-family neighborhoods; once you take them down you can never get them back.
- More trail expansions are in the works, linking people with parks.
- There’s an opportunity to develop the eastern section of D-1 with more corporations, bringing jobs to the area so that people don’t have to leave the area to go to work.
- A strong sense of place is being ignited.
Reflections + Resources + Practical Applications
I’ve included notes that expand past the conversation with Chad. The intent is to give you an opportunity to dig a bit deeper into your own way of relating and leading – at all levels. Tools and articles are included to help you move from earphones to application.
First Impressions, Accessibility and Limiting beliefs
- What first impression do you make? Do people feel seen and heard when they walk away from their interaction with you?
- I was reluctant to reach out to Chad because I thought he would decline or simply ignore my call due to his busy schedule and lack of relationship with me.
- Where are you limiting yourself by not extending?
- To whom do you need to extend?
- What are you concerned will happen if you make contact and it is either not returned or rejected?
- What is the consequence of remaining quiet?
Encouraging Engagement and Being Challenged
- How are important decisions communicated in your organization? Are they interesting and clear so that employees and stakeholders understand the impact and action they need to take?
- How do you skillfully engage your stakeholders when leading change? Can you tolerate being challenged? Do you build in time for thoughtful input and are you open to changing direction based on this input? Do you expand engagement past the ‘usual suspects’ that typically agree with your opinion?
- Speed and ease are often preferenced over stakeholder engagement. The sheer amount of current work, ‘incoming’, and shareholder and time pressure make thoughtful engagement difficult. Strategic prioritization of initiatives and tasks can help clarify and reduce noise. Here are a couple of prioritization tools.
- I was reminded of the Gallup 12 Employee Engagement Survey used in many organizations while Chad described the challenge and payoff of engaging neighborhoods. There seem to be several similarities between engaged employees and engaged citizens. How is your organization assessing engagement?
- I’m also reminded of my first interview with Jennifer Touchet and the importance of power mapping and neighborhood engagement.
- As a stakeholder – citizen, voter, employee – how are you investing your time and energy to give input in ways that can positively influence an outcome (rather than staying on the sideline)?
Building Trust and Relationships
- How often do you reach across the aisle or across the organization chart to truly understand your colleague’s world? It’s likely that your work processes and products, whether it is financial, sales, operations, or HR, directly impacts them. How often do you take a walk in their neighborhood?
- The Trusted Advisor’s Trust Equation is a helpful way to consider trust and the components of trust. Here are links to an explanation of the Trust Equation and the Trust Equation itself.
Holding a Long-Term Vision
- Notice the vision for District 1 has been unfolding for 10 – 20 year. The article, A Call for Long Term Capitalism is insightful and compels is to look past quarterly earnings and other short-term metrics. We’re challenged to become ‘decaders’.
- How do you and your organization stay committed and aligned to a long-term vision? What rhythms and structures have you created to support this vision?
After listening to the interview and reading the notes, I wonder what your takeaway is?
Thanks for tuning in, and I’d really love to hear from you!
Take good care,