- Hometown: Northbrook, Ill.
- Role: Agency director of the Virginia Division of Legislative Automated Systems
- Years of legislative service: Six
“My staff is resilient and responsive to whatever comes their way. They have a keen understanding of what constitutes excellent customer service, which is the key to success for any service organization.”
Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?
After working in the executive branch for 29 years at two large agencies and watching how the legislative branch operated, I decided I wanted to learn more about “how the sausage is made.” When the opportunity opened up, I figured this was my chance to make a positive contribution where it all starts: legislation. I’m not sure yet what kind of sausage we make here in Virginia, but I do know at times—as is probably the case with most states—it does get a little spicy!
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
My staff is resilient and responsive to whatever comes their way. They have a keen understanding of what constitutes excellent customer service, which is the key to success for any service organization. I am tremendously proud of my team.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Having worked in the private sector for nine years before coming to state government, I was unsure if government work was for me. After six short months in my new state job, I witnessed a different way to conduct business—a way that had many more checks and balances than the private sector, which slowed down the wheels of progress considerably. Compared to my previous jobs it seemed to take forever to get things done, especially when the power centers were split among parties. As I grew more frustrated, I thought seriously about quitting. But my boss at the time, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, looked me right in the eye and said, “Dave, if you leave for these reasons, then you can never criticize government again! This is your opportunity to help improve the system. Don’t turn your back on this chance.” So I took the chance, and 35 years later I can say I have seen considerable improvement and that the advice I was given has resulted in many rewarding years of service. And I learned there are reasons for those checks and balances.
Who or what inspires you?
Accepting a challenge and overcoming adversity, especially when the odds are against you.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
There are so many things to love about Virginia, and remember, “Virginia is for Lovers.” But if I had to pick just one, I would say it is the variety of beautiful nearby destinations, with mountains to the west, beaches to the east, our nation’s capital to the north, and the Carolinas to our south. A little bit of everything for everyone. Oh, and history lovers love Virginia, too.
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
I am currently reading the book “A Checkered Past,” by Al Unser Jr. At the recent NCSL Summit in Indianapolis, Unser gave an incredibly inspiring account of his rise to fame, with 34 first-place finishes, two of them Indy 500 wins, followed by his struggle with drugs and alcohol and how he turned things around. It’s a good read.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Use the email icon above to suggest a staffer for the “Staff Snapshots” series.