Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
Announcing the Jefferson List
This September the AIA will publish the Jefferson List is an effort to recognize those AIA members who have chosen to run for elected office in their community, or state. The AIA has worked to promote the efforts of those members who have chosen to serve in public office. Recently four AIA members who are running for office, two democrats and two republicans, were asked what being as architect brings to the table in elected office. In response, the four candidates seem much more alike than one would assume their political ideology would imply.
“We tend to look at things holistically,” says Soren Simonsen, AIA, who is running as a Democrat for Congress from the Third Congressional District in Utah. “Even those architects that are partisan - what I’ve witnessed are that we are people that think more independently; we haven’t voted in lock-step. Our values and attitudes are much more into bridge-building, bringing a project owner and a user that are at odds and bringing them together.”
Ohio Republican State Senator Chris Widener, FAIA, puts it, architects are ideally trained and educated to solve problems. “And public service, no matter whether it’s the school board, the Ohio House of Representatives, or the Ohio Senate, is problem solving. Architects have the ability to look at problems, design creative solutions to those problems, and more importantly, to go out and sell their solutions, which is what we do every day with our clients. Once we have a solution, it’s our job to gain the support of the consulting engineers and other interested parties, as well as the owner. We do the same thing we do in the legislature.”
Dan Forest, AIA, an architect who is running as a Republican for Lieutenant Governor in North Carolina, argues that the consensus skills he has built running an architecture firm that specializes in office building design and workplace strategy makes him uniquely qualified to tackle the tough issues facing his state. He is used to putting as many as 30 to 40 clients in a room and helping them agree on a office solution that’s good for everyone. “The skill-sets that we bring to politics are different,” he contends. “We as architects are very unique and very well-suited to the complexity of our challenges right now. We are visionaries. We are forward thinkers, planners, problem solvers, consensus-builders. In the world of politics, we too frequently talk in terms of two and four–year increments. Very rarely do politicians talk or know how to begin the process of thinking twenty, thirty, forty years down the road.”
Chris Walsh, AIA, who is a Democratic state representative in Massachusetts, likes to describe the talents architects bring to the political process as “hard listening.” “It’s the ability to break down problems and listen to people and what they are actually saying,” Walsh observes. “People who are trained as lawyers look at things in a particular way,’ he says. “Architects have a narrative that’s a little different. We very intently listen to people and don’t always accept the common knowledge about what’s going on.”
In short Architects bring a different prospective to problem solving than a lawyer or other professional. We hope you will take a look at this list of candidates and consider supporting their efforts to seek office.
If you are or know an AIA member and a candidate for elective office and would like to be listed contact Adam Melis at email@example.com.
Government & Community Relations Archive:
This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.