Next American Vanguard is the only annual conference dedicated to enlightening, inspiring and networking the next generation of urban leaders. For two days in May 2009 and 2010, two such groups of leaders had the opportunity to network with each other, engage with experts in their field, hear from seasoned changemakers and jumpstart their ideas for improving cities. But the Vanguard’s work continues year-round in the government offices, nonprofits, corporations and communities they work in. Each Monday leading up to the 2011 conference, which will take place in May, we will feature an interview with a member of the Vanguard. To learn more about eligibility, click here (the application period will begin in early 2011). To read a recap of the 2010 event, click here.
Marvin Chaney is a Program Specialist with the Texas Water Development Board based in Austin, Texas.
What is your typical workday like?
My typical workday involves monitoring projects as they proceed through our application process, reviewing, researching, and responding to any hot-button issues or inquiries from applicants and upper management, researching and writing new policies for the upcoming year, and assisting in producing our annual reports.
Why do you do the work you do?
My motivation for doing this job comes from recognizing how important an example my program has for changing the standard process for building infrastructure in Texas. Getting engineers, small communities, and the finance industry to believe in non-traditional projects will in the long term make Texas a much more sustainable and environmentally conscious state.
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement was hearing my late grandmother tell my family how proud she was of me for following my dreams and always being a positive role model to the rest of my family. Her thinking that highly of me means the world to me and gives me strength to persevere.
Who in your city inspires you the most?
I can’t pinpoint a single person but I think the activists in Austin inspire me the most. Whether they are fighting for civil rights, gay rights, environmental protection, fair police treatment, disabled rights, or whatever, Austin has a very vocal and visible activist community. One that often extends helping hands to other local activist organizations. That inclusiveness and sense of self-awareness inspires me.
What is your favorite thing to do in your city?
Jogging or biking along the greenbelts around town.
What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
Along with activists, I also admire all of the individuals that actually produce the vision of leaders. For some leaders to be truly successful often requires a committed staff that understand and help process the finer details of a vision. I admire that commitment.
What is the biggest challenge of your work?
My biggest challenge is making sure that communication is effectively shared between folks in the office and the public.
What would you like to have achieved in ten years?
I would like to have gotten a masters in city & regional planning, gained more work experience in planning and development, and traveled to a few more exotic places.
What would be your advice to young people who want to make a difference in their cities?
Stay connected with organizations and individuals that do the type of stuff you’re interested in. Keep reading and staying abreast of the latest news and keep forming your own opinions to what’s happening around you and share those ideas with others. All of that should help motivate you, and others, to make a difference.
would you define the “Next American City”?
I would define the “Next American City” as a completely transparent city, where citizen issues are addressed quickly, efficiently, and publicly. I would also define it as being more diverse and inclusive in terms of income, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.