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November 10, 2014

Kevin Crawford is the President and CEO of United Way of San Diego County. He is also a member of SDWP’s Policy Board. Here he tells SDWP about his first job, the workforce issues he is most passionate about, and the accomplishments he is most proud of in his time with United Way. 

SDWP: What issues are you most passionate about as they relate to workforce development?

Crawford: This is a tough question for me because everything we do at United Way of San Diego County is in some way tied to workforce development. Whether it’s helping a kindergartener learn how to sound out his letters or a mother learning how to save money for a house and her children’s future or a homeless veteran who needs help finding a construction job, we are dedicated to bringing the right people and resources together to spark breakthrough community action. We want to elevate every child and family toward a brighter future. And everyone must be involved in workforce development—nonprofits, schools, businesses and community leaders. 

On a broader level, I am most passionate, professionally and in life in general, about helping and seeing people meet their potential. If we could all just get past the self-restricting language that we have in our head. For example, many people say, “I can’t get up and speak to people” or “I’m not good at that.” We have programmed our minds and burdened our lives to believe this. We are what we think we are in our own minds—but that doesn’t mean we can’t. There’s so much we can.

SDWP: What was your first job, and how did that experience impact you?

Crawford: Before I even had my first job, the type of work and work ethic I have I attribute to my parents, especially my dad. My dad was a very successful businessman and high-ranking military officer who ran our home in a way that taught me how to make hard decisions, manage time and conversations, as well when to give/take, and when you can’t compromise. 

My first paid job was at a small veterinary hospital, where, at 15, I cleaned out the cages and fed the animals. I was trusted to work independently, after school and on weekends. There is one time I remember well to this day: I had cleaned all the cages, but there was one where I cut some corners and didn’t clean it as thoroughly as I should have. The animal in that cage scared me, growling and biting. And the veterinarian called me on it. It was the first time someone besides my dad had sternly talked to me. It was the same thing I’d heard all my life from my dad: Don’t cut corners. And since then, I will not compromise on what I do. Do things the right way the first time—that’s the most efficient way to do business.

SDWP: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of in your time as President and CEO of United Way?

Crawford: It’s been less than a year since I became United Way’s President and CEO, but we did develop a new mission and vision to re-focus the nonprofit, creating a community built upon opportunity for everyone. I’m rallying my staff, our nonprofit, government and business partners, and the community around United Way’s shared vision, goals and measurement in order to maximize community engagement.

By encouraging the community to work together in a collaborative and strategic way, we can strengthen United Way’s effective network of resources to fill gaps in the system. 

With the success we’ve seen—in City Heights and Chula Vista, improving kids’ reading skills; in North County and the South Bay, through financial self-sufficiency classes; and on our downtown streets, getting the homeless off the sidewalks and into permanent housing—we know we’re effective. We can see the results.

I know there’s much more to do, but as a community, we should be proud of what we’ve accomplished along the way, too. 

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