Name: Paul Buddenhagen
Title: East Bay Works/Service Integration Administrator
Organization: Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department
Organization’s Mission: In partnership with the community, we provide services that support and protect adults, children, families and the elderly, and promote personal responsibility, independence and self-sufficiency.
Years in the sector: Lucky 13
1. What was your first nonprofit job?
I can’t even remember the name of the agency, but I remember some of the people in the facility. It was a home for adults with moderate to severe developmental disabilities in my home state of Missouri, and I worked the overnight shift the summer before my first year of college. I didn’t know much about nonprofits but I needed a job and my step mother knew the director of the agency. I had no experience, but I could get along with people and I worked hard. I still remember Brian, who nearly every morning would sincerely invite me to his soon-to-happen wedding, and Philip who walked with a limp but had a big smile and called me Pauly-boy, and silent Charles who was young and physically strong but was hurt in a car accident and never spoke again. I really liked those guys.
2. Why do you do the work you do / what motivates you to keep at it?
I’m driven by the hope that our sector can inspire people and communities to thrive. I’ve seen it happen in small and big ways and these successes motivate me to keep moving forward.
3. What part of your job do you most enjoy?
I love coming up with ideas for programs and then working with people to make them happen. Trying to figure out how to move the needle on poverty and social justice is work I’m glad to be doing. Getting results in these challenging areas for me is about working across sectors and developing strong relationships and teams, and I am lucky to work with a lot of great colleagues in Contra Costa County.
4. What is your favorite nonprofit organization (beside the organization you work for)?
Social Justice/economic development organizations are at the top of my list these days. But I have a lot of respect for most nonprofits – most of the ones I come into contact with have dedicated staff working in often tough conditions.
5. What is the reform you admire most?
I like the addition of a wild card slot for major league baseball playoffs. The New Deal is a close second– hard to imagine how far to the right we’ve moved.
6. Who is your favorite real life hero/heroine?
The people who stand up in the face of danger for human rights – the Egyptians recently, Stephen Biko, Paul Farmer, Patrice Lumumba.
7. Who is your favorite nonprofit sector hero/heroine?
That’s a tough one – I’ve worked with a lot of amazingly talented and hard working people. Linda Canan, Napa County Child Welfare Director,and Cecilia Ornelas, program coordinator for Catholic Charities of the East Bay,are two who come to mind. Linda brings such smarts, strategic thinking and humor to her work that I’ve always tried to emulate those qualities. Cecilia came to the US from Mexico with very little means, but great passion for self improvement and incredible vision and creativity. They both also have tons of integrity.
8. What did you learn from the person who has most influenced you?
When I was about 9 years old we moved out of a big apartment into a house in an integrated St. Louis neighborhood. One day I was sitting on the front steps watching an old lady wrestle her lawn mower up a small hill in her yard. My mom came out and made me go across the street, introduce myself and mow her lawn, adding “don’t take any money from her.” I always had to give up my seat on the bus if someone older was standing, if I was riding with my mom. Lots of experiences like these as a kid helped me learn how important it is to help each other out when we can.
9. What is your connection to CompassPoint?
I’ve admired CompassPoint for a decade and joined the board in January 2010 when CompassPoint merged with the CBO Center. I am one of three CBO Center board members who came over to CompassPoint through the merger. In May 2011 I was honored to become the vice chair of the board for CompassPoint.
10. What is your favorite thing about CompassPoint?
The people and the mission! I’m extremely impressed by the intelligence, compassion, commitment and thoughtfulness of CompassPoint’s staff and board. It’s a real pleasure to be part of a team that is so dedicated to strengthening communities and people through the nonprofit sector. I’m not the kind of person who gets excited by theories of change, but if you haven’t seen CompassPoint’s TOC, go check it out – it’s a beauty. It starts with the issue being addressed: achieving social equity requires effective leaders, organizations and networks and then identifies anticipated changes and primary strategies. It’s a wonderful roadmap for the organization and reflects the high quality of staff and mission.
11. What is the most important quality in a leader?
Integrity, creativity and passion are three qualities I look for in a leader.
12. What is your current state of mind?
somewhat hopeful, but a bit worried about the current direction
13. What is your most important character attribute?
Openness and humor
14. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting in the stands for a daytime baseball game
15. What does the world need now?
love, sweet love
16. Who is your favorite historical or literary hero/heroine?
Jesse B. Semple, aka Simple, is one of my favorites. Langston Hughes wrote a bunch of stories featuring Simple. I’m also a big Atticus Finch fan.
17. What is your favorite occupation (way to spend time)?
Crossing, growing and eating tomatoes