Master of Public Policy (MPP)

Building a system that works for everyone

Cal Harris speaking into a microphone in front of a campaign bus
Cal Harris speaking during the Nicole Galloway for Missouri campaign (photo courtesy of Cal Harris)

When the new Baltimore mayor was looking for a communications director to help bring his vision to his constituents and beyond, Cal Harris, MPP’10, was a perfect fit.

Harris has been working for policy nonprofits and consulting for political campaigns over the past decade, and jumped at the opportunity to help transform a city much like his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

“Baltimore has a lot of challenges, but I’m excited to help Mayor Brandon Scott address them with innovation and holistic solutions,” says Harris. “If we can move the needle on some chronic issues, we can really bring transformative progress to a lot of neighborhoods.”

These chronic problems include segregation and gun violence, as well as the pressing issue of COVID-19 and access to health care and vaccines.

“It’s fundamental for leaders to use this moment to reimagine what policing and public safety look like in their communities,” Harris says. The mayor recently announced a task force to explore the city’s police budget over the next five years, looking for opportunities to reallocate resources to address the root causes of crime and widespread gun violence.

“We need to focus efforts on those communities to foster trust and credibility with those who have lost it,” Harris says.

Like other predominantly Black communities across the country, Baltimore has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. To stem community transmission and increase vaccinations, city leadership has worked to get more resources from the state and set up mobile clinics to reach its most vulnerable populations.

“If you’re looking at this from a true equity lens, the communities impacted the most should get the most support,” Harris says.  

He credits his Heller MPP for giving him an appreciation for the impact of local government and an understanding of complex policy issues.

“Breaking down the nuances of policies and communicating them in a coherent way is essential. I recognize how infrastructure issues lead to environmental issues that lead to public health issues that lead to a host of other matters,” he says.

For Harris, who worked to elect young, Black mayors in Birmingham, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas, joining Mayor Scott’s team in Baltimore is a powerful experience.

“Since the founding of America, Black people have been an afterthought. Our communities are suppressed from participating in democracy, and our priorities overlooked in policies and government budgets,” he says. “I’m honored to work with a new generation of bold leadership that wants to tackle racial equity head-on, and build a system that truly works for everyone.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Cal Harris, both wearing face masks
From left, Mayor Brandon Scott and Cal Harris (photo courtesy of Cal Harris)