Meet the Panelists: Andrew Hening, City of San Rafael, CA

Posted on January 5, 2017

For our first-ever webinar policy summit on homelessness, we’re pleased to welcome five amazing speakers on the topic. Because a web-based conference doesn’t give you the same opportunity to get to know the speakers, we’re doing speaker profiles in advance of the policy summit. Don’t forget to RSVP for the summit session(s), schedule for January 12, 2017.

Andrew Hening

11:30 a.m.
Stories from San Rafael: Realistic Solutions Developed by a Medium-Sized City with Andrew HeningRegister!

What’s one interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your LinkedIn profile?

It looks like I somehow, for some unimaginable reason, forgot to list on my Linkedin profile that I was once a ballroom dance instructor.

What’s the most challenging thing you’re working on right now?

One of the most difficult challenges I’m working on right now is trying to create an executive leadership group that can provide the overall vision/strategy for ending homelessness in our community.  Our neighbors in Sonoma County and Santa Clara County, to name just two examples, have created executive steering committees (city electeds, county electeds, health officials, the faith-based community, philanthropists, business leaders, etc.) to aid in driving systems change in their communities.  For the past six months I have been working on selling the merits of such a group, and fortunately in February we will be kicking off our own local version in Marin.

Where do you find the most fulfillment in your public service career?

Public service affords the opportunity to tackle some of the most difficult challenge we face (homelessness, climate change, poverty, inequality), and I find nothing more rewarding than working on one of these really problems with really smart people while knowing I am in some small way helping people realize their true potential.

How do you unwind after a tough day/week at work?

I’m in a part-time graduate program, so I like to replace my stress from work with stress from school.  Fortunately the great outdoors and xbox tend to help mitigate both.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m just  finishing Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal (would highly recommend this book), and I’m about to start either Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman or The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis.  Thoughts?

If someone made a biopic about your life, which actor/actress would play you in the movie?

Matthew McConaughey c. 2005, when he was named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

If you could wave a magic wand and solve a public policy problem, what would it be?

There is a serious empathy shortage in this country, particularly as it relates to our national political dialogue.  We don’t seem to agree about the facts, we continue to seek out self-fulfilling news and media sources (e.g. facebook), and despite overwhelming bipartisan support for some issues, we allow the perpetuation of a political system that is hopelessly polarized and gridlocked.  I think the way we begin to change this, the way we reinvigorate the values that make America great, is by instituting mandatory national service for every American.

I am an AmeriCorps VISTA graduate, and national service was one of the most formative experiences in my life.  I keep dreaming about a future where kids from West Texas serve in New York City and kids from the Bay Area spend time community-building in Nebraska.  We can cultivate real civic empathy by getting out of our comfort zones and by meeting and working with real people with different worldviews.   Eventually every single person in this country could begin a conversation with another American by asking “Where did you serve?”

It give me chills thinking about the uniting impact of something like that.  And in addition to the emotional/social argument, it would be an easy leap to then provide free or reduced tuition for post-secondary degrees pursued after national service, young people could be exposed to new fields or industries and thus make better school/career decisions, and the country would benefit substantially from service projects from coast to coast.  If I wasn’t working to end homelessness, I’d be committing myself to this cause.

What’s your most controversial (non-political) opinion?

MTV’s The Challenge is the best show on television.

Don’t forget to register for the four different Homelessness Policy Summit sessions, scheduled for January 12, 2017.

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