Tracy Wareing Evans is the President and CEO of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), a bi-partisan, non-profit, membership organization representing state and local health and human service agencies through their top-level leadership. In coordination with APHSA’s executive governing board of directors, Wareing Evans sets the strategic direction for the Association and spearheads delivery on its mission “to advance the well-being of all people by influencing modern approaches to sound policy, building the capacity of public agencies to enable healthy families and communities, and connecting leaders to accelerate learning and generate practical solutions together.” In support of APHSA’s bold strategic plan released in 2018, Wareing Evans is mobilizing strategic partnerships with connected sectors integral to thriving communities, including education, justice, housing, and health as well as community-based organizations.
Wareing Evans has a long history in high-level policy development and public administration. She served as a senior advisor to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and, before moving to Washington D.C. in 2009, as the Director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, an integrated human service agency. She has also served as policy adviser for human services under then Arizona Gov. Napolitano and as director of the state’s child welfare division. Wareing Evans began her career as a litigator. She has served on more than 20 boards and advisory committees over the course of her career including several national appointments.
Here is a recent interview with Ms. Tracy Wareing Evans:
Serendipitously! I started out as an attorney in private practice and about seven years into my career as a litigator had the opportunity to join the Arizona Attorney General’s office as the lead of its child protective services division, representing the state in child abuse and neglect dependency cases. It was there I discovered my passion for public service and administration, and, the importance of human service programs delivered by the public sector to support the health and well-being of people in communities across the country. I never turned back.
It is hard to pick just one – they are all so important. I’ve gravitated first to Fostering Social Equity. Advancing race equity, in particular, is a priority focus of my current work with state and local leaders around the country who are committed to getting underneath the structural inequities and biases within our systems in order to achieve well-being for all people. The challenge before us is complex, dynamic, rooted in historical policy and practice, and bigger than any one system or sector. There is no silver bullet—no single approach. I am appreciative of NAPA including social equity as a grand challenge—we must create platforms like this to learn from each other, share our insights and progress, and tackle the persistent roadblocks together.
Public service is one of the most rewarding career choices you can make. People and the communities they live, work, and play in have brighter futures because of the work that happens every day through public sector leaders. My advice is to enter public service boldly and with pride for what you are embarking upon. In public service, in good times, you help to advance the future of our country so communities can thrive. In challenging times, you support the backbone of those communities to weather the storm. New leaders must help all of us in public service advance opportunities for achieving greater impact, especially through data and technology, and by harnessing the talent and expertise of the American people to surface and scale what works. New leaders should not be afraid to challenge the status quo or to spotlight our structural flaws; we need fresh perspectives and innovative spirit to take us to new levels of impact, and to help restore broad understanding of why public service matters to a civil and just society.
I just finished an incredibly insightful book on courageous leadership—and one highly relevant to our current times—by Nancy Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School. Forged In Crisis: The Power of Leadership in Turbulent Times tells the story of five historical figures and what made them impactful as they led through a time of crisis. While I took many lessons away from this book, two points in particular stuck with me: (i) when a challenging moment arises that demands leadership and attention, the covenant that courageous leaders have already made with themselves to “always be in the game” automatically kicks in; and (ii) courageous leaders have the ability to paint the picture of what will be beyond the crisis itself—the ability to create hope for the future and help people see past the turbulent moment. In other words, to lead in turbulent times requires leaning into the challenge without hesitation because it’s exactly what is needed for the good of all us, even if the solutions are themselves not yet clear or easy to attain.
The answer is simple. I work toward having more free time to spend with my family and friends—my husband and son; my dad and sister who live in Arizona; and many long-time friends, especially a close-knit group of women I stay in touch with from Arizona. And I work toward the kind of time with family and friends where you are free from distractions and devices and truly present in the moment. I’m not sure I would get a passing grade if you asked any of them how I am doing but it is something I constantly strive to improve on.