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2001
Movers and shapers
DETAILS, DETAILS

  Steve Falk
Steve Falk ’86
Steve Falk ’86 understands that what binds a community together are the little things.

As city manager for Lafayette, a small community outside San Francisco, Falk pays attention to the details of daily life while keeping in focus the bigger picture.

“I get a call just this morning from a guy who’s unhappy about people blowing through the stop signs on his corner,” he explains. “I make a call, ask the police to go by there and write a few tickets. The guy calls back to say thank you. I find that very rewarding.”

Falk majored in economics at Reed and attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A master’s degree in hand, brimming with energy and ambition, he went straight to work as an intern with the city government of Long Beach, California.

He spent the first six weeks of his new career learning city government from the bottom up. Literally. He spent that time working with work crews cleaning sewers, paving streets, and landscaping roadsides. He spent nights riding along with paramedics and police.

“I spent $40,000 and two years in graduate school, and I’ll tell you those weeks were more educational and eye opening than anything in graduate school,” he says.


Lafayette Plaza

Lafayette Plaza, a renovation project that Steve Falk led

 

 
Falk likes dealing with civic minutiae, what he calls “people’s daily needs and frustrations.” He’ll gladly discuss the merits of speed bumps or mediate a conflict between neighbors about a new house addition one of them wants to build.

Falk also has launched ambitious projects during his dozen years in Lafayette. He has led initiatives to redevelop and beautify downtown, open subsidized housing for people with disabilities, build a community park, and protect the town’s open space.

But he makes a point of saying he’s as proud of the little things as the big things. While government often gets criticized as wasteful or intrusive, Falk takes pride in his work.

“I was talking to a Brownie troop the other day,” Falk recalls, “and they asked me what government does. I tell them government does what people can’t do for themselves.

“That’s really it, isn’t it?”

End of Article

Romel Hernandez is a freelance writer in Portland.

 


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2001