Public Service Spotlight
Chief of Staff, DC Department of Small and Local Business Development
Harold Pettigrew is currently Chief of Staff for the District of Columbia’s Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD). If you had asked him what the future held when he was in his last semester at Wagner, he never would have guessed he’d be an agency executive two years later. Pettigrew describes his experience since graduating as a whirlwind, but he hopes to remain in his current position for a good while. As Chief of Staff at DSLBD, he serves as chief management advisor to the Director, oversees the activities of nearly 35 employees and a $7 million operating budget, and works closely with other DSLBD senior executives to coordinate the Department’s overall business strategy.
Pettigrew’s brief career path leading to this position has taken many turns. Prior to coming to Wagner, he was a New York City Urban Fellow and served as special assistant to the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services. While earning his MUP, he was an intern at the Myrtle Avenue Local Development Corporation in Brooklyn, and President of the Urban Planning Student Association. He also consulted for the Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation as part of his Capstone project. After graduating, Pettigrew became a Capital City Fellow and worked as a transportation planner for the District Department of Transportation and special assistant to the General Manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He then served as an economic development specialist for Mayor-Elect Adrian M. Fenty’s Transition Team and continued on with the city after Fenty took office, as Economic Development Resource Manager in the Office of the City Administrator.
Pettigrew was to become Chief of Staff for DSLBD in May of this year. When D.C.’s historic Eastern Market was struck by a three alarm fire in April, he was also appointed by the Mayor to serve as Project Manager for the Eastern Market Restoration Initiative. In this role he was charged with stabilizing the merchants who lost their bakery, butcher and fishmonger stalls to ensure they could maintain their businesses, and was also responsible for coordinating government agencies in efforts to rebuild the market. When his responsibilities in responding to the fire subsided, Pettigrew was able to focus his full attention on his new role at DSLBD. As it is a new agency for the district, he has had the opportunity to help determine what the structure of each operating unit will be, as well as what the department’s priorities will be both in program and policy development. He contributes to budget planning and considers what resources will be needed to deliver the department’s programs effectively. He learned from his experience with the Eastern Market fire that DSLBD does not currently have the capability to respond to emergency circumstances for small businesses. He has worked to develop a strategy both for education for their clients as well as an effective response system.
Pettigrew enjoys that every day is completely different at DSLBD. It is an exciting job and he finds it similar to his experience in NYC’s Department of Small Business Services when the Bloomberg Administration started. There are new challenges each day and he has to think creatively to meet a big charge with little resources and a limited staff. He values the time he spent at Wagner as his academic, professional and student life experiences helped him hone his understanding of policy and program development in addition to his people skills and he learned to establish a balance among these elements to allow for effective management. He knows he still has a lot to learn, but the base of knowledge and experience that Wagener gave him has allowed him to step into his new position feeling adequately prepared and ready for whatever lies ahead.