Two Minutes with Richard Dunn, Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division
How long have you been the Director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division? What’s your best experience thus far?
Almost two years – I was confirmed by our Board in June 2016. Without a doubt, my most rewarding experience is the opportunity to work every day with the professional and dedicated public servants that make up our entire organization. I’m proud of the integrity, competency, and problem solving abilities they are able apply to the issues that directly shape the future of our communities.
How has being a member of ECOS benefitted you?
The “federal delegation” model that shapes much of environmental policy is somewhat unique and not something that I’ve experienced to the same degree or shape in other policy areas I’ve worked in such as health care, human services, economic development, and education. As a consequence, the work and challenges faced by each state bear a lot of similarities. It’s great that an organization like ECOS is available to provide state environmental protection leaders resources for education, joint advocacy, and opportunities to network and share. I know our state especially benefited from all of the hard work ECOS and its members put into developing and pressing the vision for Cooperative Federalism 2.0 as a new Administration in Washington seeks to rethink the existing U.S. EPA-state relationships.
What is the best management advice you’ve received?
Throughout my management career, I’ve tried to focus upon the discipline or management of getting things done. As leader of an organization, I have three key responsibilities: choosing other leaders, setting the strategic direction, and monitoring the processes we’ve established to help ensure we execute well. All successful leaders I have worked for have empowered their management team to make decisions and ensured that they have the capacity to handle that responsibility. There is a great saying that I always try to remember – I’m not sure of the source: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Vision is the unifying focal point of effort, but execution – getting things done and delivering on commitments –determines management’s (and an organization’s) success or failure.
Tell us about your morning ritual.
At home, quick exercise, a cup of coffee, and some yogurt. I take my high school son to school every day. Once at the office, I check in with members of my team and – if time allows – scan news clippings. I will also review e-mails and voicemails from the prior day that I have not yet had the opportunity to process or delegate. At about 9:00 a.m., I’m ready to face the unique challenges and decisions that each day brings!
What was your childhood dream job?
Probably a Supreme Court Justice or a diplomat – I’ve always been attracted to public service, though I did not really envision myself as a leader of large bureaucratic organizations.
What’s your favorite moment of your career so far?
I’ve been fortunate that my professional career has provided the opportunity to visit unique places and meet interesting and influential individuals that not many others are able to experience. My favorite moments, however, are those instances we get to hear directly from the people whose lives have been impacted for the good by our decisions and actions. You don’t get this opportunity every day, but when it happens, it’s really something special.
What leader do you most admire?
In terms of well-known historical figures – Nelson Mandela and Alexander Hamilton. I also carry deep admiration for a number of our local elected officials, city managers, and front-line public servants. Though not well-known outside of their own communities, I admire how they are able to deal with crisis situations, difficult resource decisions, quarrelling neighbors, and criticism with honesty, respect, and fairness. I always learn a lot about leadership and public service when spending time with local officials.
What was your first real job?
Throughout high school and college, I did a lot of landscaping and waiting on tables. Teaching public policy and political science in Pennsylvania was my first “real job” once I left graduate school. I began my government career about six years later in health care policy and planning.
What can you not live without?
I love barbeque and my dog – and also my wife and son!
If Hollywood made a movie of your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
I’d like to think Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson would be a good fit. In reality, it would probably be Paul Giamatti.