From episode: The Richmond Promise - EPISODE 14 Hosted by Jared Asch
I am joined by Christopher Whitmore of Richmond Promise. Chris, first, tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to Richmond Promise. Then tell us, what is the Richmond Promise? Absolutely. First off, thank you for inviting me to the podcast. Really great to be here and have this conversation. I was raised here in the city of Richmond. I still live in Richmond, and growing up here in our community, like so many other young people, I wanted to enter into a career pathway and build an adult life in which I could support the Richmond community and try to make this city, this community, the kind of place that I always envisioned it to be, which is a place where everyone can thrive.
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Everyone can feel welcome here in Richmond, and feel like they have opportunities from the city, and the community to be who they want to be, to contribute to this space, and to make this city better for everyone. With that really broad, general goal in mind, I decided at a very young age, elementary school age, that I wanted to be a public official when I grew up. I wanted to work specifically in the mayor's office of the city of Richmond when I grew up. My godmother, Erma Anderson, was mayor when I was in elementary school. She was the first African-American woman elected mayor of the city of Richmond. I grew up with folks like #JohnGioia, who's our county supervisor and has been our representative for several years on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, along with several other folks who really inspired me to want to build out a career in public service.
With that in mind, I went off to college. I went out of state to Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. I studied political science with an emphasis on public law. After graduating from Webster in 2014, I moved to Washington, D.C., where I was accepted into a congressional fellowship. Through that fellowship, I worked in the office of then-U.S. Senator Bill Nelson's office in Florida. I moved back to Richmond in December 2014 and got my first job, my first full-time job working for Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who at the time was the representative, newly elected representative for California's 11th congressional district. I had the privilege of working as an outreach coordinator in his Richmond office, which is actually just down the hall from where my current office is today. A year later, in 2016, I got to accomplish that childhood goal of mine of working in the mayor's office. I worked for Mayor Tom Butt, starting off initially as his director of community engagement, later promoted to be his director of policy and strategy. After about two years in that office, I went over to the city and county of San Francisco, where I went to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and worked on their policy and government affairs team. For about a year and a half, I wrote, along with my supervisor, all of the water, power, and wastewater legislation for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. About a year and a half later, I came back here to the city of Richmond and served as Tom Butt's chief of staff for exactly two years. And two years ago, on October 4th, 2021, I started as Richmond Promise's second executive director. It's been a great journey over the last two years, and I was really inspired to make the transition from the mayor's office to Richmond Promise. Just thinking back on my experience growing up in Richmond, I had a goal to go to college at a young age for the sake and purpose of really accomplishing my career goals.
Just being reminded constantly that there are so many other young people in Richmond who have educational and career goals for themselves. Those young people also deserve to have really strong support systems in our community to help them go off and do the things that they want to do. I came over to Richmond Promise to strengthen that support system for our entire community.