By: Nicholas Hart
Who or what inspired you to work in public service?
I grew up in a small town in Missouri admiring state and local political and policy processes. But it was really involvement in the Boy Scouts as a youth that nudged me toward a lifelong passion for public service – including for serving others by trying to get the “policy” right. I remember once reaching out to legendary Missouri State Senator Harold Caskey in hopes he would speak with me. He graciously agreed, spending hours discussing public service and telling stories about his experience. His advice to me was like a motto – do whatever you can to help others.
What is something you are excited about right now?
My work today focuses on advancing support systems and infrastructure for more evidence-informed policymaking. While the field has plenty of challenges, there is much to be excited about including the new energy and enthusiasm for using data and evidence spurred by the Biden Administration. A week into office the President’s memo on using science and evidence in policymaking is a rallying cry for my work, suggesting a renewed attention to building the capacity and infrastructure long-needed at all levels of government for evidence building and use.
What is your favorite class you have ever taught or took and why?
I am a believer in the need for more program evaluation for our public sector activities and teaching a course on program evaluation to graduate students at George Washington University has been fun and rewarding. But for me evaluation was never my favorite class to take – ornithology was. Nothing like waking up at 4 a.m. to trek to the field for “research.” My experiences in the field led to others that shaped my early career focused on environmental policy.
What inspires you during these challenging times?
While there is much that has inspired me over the past year, I am humbled by the agility and innovation in the public sector and the scientific community over the past 12 months. From developing new approaches for collecting data to understand the impacts of the pandemic to launching a nationwide vaccine distribution system, there are so many incredibly talented, dedicated, and motivate civil servants in government today who deserve our thanks and appreciation.
What advice can you give to folks beginning careers in public service?
Be kind. Listen. Be creative. I started my career at OMB and it took me longer than I should admit to recognize I didn’t know everything, I had a lot to learn, and it was actually fun to collaborate with senior executives across government to implement good policy.
What is your favorite midnight snack?
Manchego cheese, salami, water crackers.
Do you have any pets at home?
No pets at this time. Strongly prefer to spend time keeping up with my very enthusiastic 3-year-old!
If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?
Lincoln’s first inauguration. The first presidential biography I read as a child was about Lincoln and the position he found himself in leading the country during a time of great turmoil. The experience of Lincoln is as relevant today as it was in 1865, particularly when in it comes to politics: “We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies.” Hopefully a timeless message for our country.
Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Take your time to do it right the first time” – from my father.