Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chris Paladino's Biography

Attached is Chris Paladino's bio courtesy of the candidate.


I was born in New York City to two young parents who struggled every day to make ends meet. Mom worked long hours at whatever job she could, while Dad worked and went to school at night to try to earn a degree.

I remember what it was like to be a kid during the recession of the 1970s. My brothers and I may not have understood everything, but it was hard to miss both parents losing their jobs and worrying about paying the rent and putting food on the table. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first experience with the government safety net that was set up to help families like ours through the toughest times.

My parents always believed education was the key to success. I’ll never forget how proud they were the day I graduated from Rutgers University – the first in my family to earn a college degree. After losing our home to a gas explosion in 1986 while I was a freshman at Rutgers and being helped through the recovery by the American Red Cross, I was thrilled to find a job with the Red Cross after graduation and began what would be a twelve-year career with the organization.

I lost my Dad at the very young age of 50 to cancer, and Mom at 59 to various causes that left her disabled and unable to work during the last three years of her life. The struggle with Social Security and the disability system was eye-opening.

My Red Cross career focused on improving operations and helping local leaders create lasting plans for growth and community impact. I was also lucky enough to be a member of the Red Cross emergency response team and had the opportunity to be part of major relief operations throughout the country and around the world. Each and every crisis presented its own unique challenges, and I learned to think on my feet, solicit input from people I agreed with and people I didn’t, and to act decisively.

I also learned how important it is, when additional facts come to light, to re-think a position and change my mind. In life, that can be called leadership. In politics, it’s seen as weak. I think we need to work together to change that perspective.

After moving for the Red Cross four times in eight years, I spent the last four years of my Red Cross career at the executive director of the Montgomery County office. I worked with public safety, health and human services and other County government departments and learned a good deal about what works, and some about what doesn’t.

Together with my wife Pam, son Nicholas (now 10), and grandmother Sophie (91), we live in the northern part of Silver Spring just north of the old Indian Springs Country Club. Beside my work with the Red Cross, I’ve worked to give back to the community by serving as president of my homeowners’ association and a member of the Layhill Alliance, on the board of the Montgomery Alliance for Community Giving, as a loaned executive to the United Way, and on various school and community projects.

These experiences left me with a few clear beliefs:

• Education, if valued by both the student and parents, can completely change a life;

• Government has and should play a role in supporting families through hard times, but the programs must be effective and help change the person’s future. The old adage, “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day – teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life,” is still true.

• Fiscal responsibility – at home, at work, and in government – is the way to prosperity. My wife and I have earned non-profit salaries for much of our careers and had to learn to budget and live within our means. Sometimes that meant hard choices. Countless families, businesses and governments are facing similar choices today. While the federal government may be able to spend us out of this recession, Montgomery County must balance the budget and make difficult choices.

Almost four years ago, I left the Red Cross and was invited to join the executive team of a local distribution company. It was a big change for someone who spent his entire career to that point in social services – and it was an eye-opener to realize that my skills were so transferrable. Every organization – for-profit or not-for-profit – has to perform the same basic functions. Bring in more money than you spend. Provide goods and services that your clients or donors want and are willing to pay for. Create jobs that are challenging, rewarding and pay well enough to attract and keep the best people.

We sold the company in 2008, and (knowing Don Praisner did not intend to run for re-election) about eight months ago I decided to explore a run for the County Council in District 4. I’ve spent that time gradually reaching out to opinion leaders, government leaders, district residents and neighbors about what they want from their next Council representative.

People are worried, and they are frustrated that our great standard of living is threatened – and even more frustrated that it costs so much to provide. Income tax, property tax, sales tax, and a host of other taxes and fees have added a lot to the burden of affordability in the County and our district.

People are telling me that we have to look at how we spend our tax dollars, and act as if it were our own money – not a gift from some generous taxpayers who now trust US to do the right thing. If we look at the current fiscal crisis as something temporary – something we “just have to work through until times get better” – then all of the pain will have taught us nothing. It’s time to reset, not just recover. It’s time to hold government accountable for responsible and effective services.

I believe my background in social service and in business proves that caring, compassion and fiscal responsibility are NOT contradictions in terms. In fact, I’ve often been called upon to serve in a role that “bridges” what people too often incorrectly see as disparate interests. My life has been one terrific learning experience, and I hope to learn even more as your Councilmember while I work to protect the quality of life we have and to keep it affordable for all of us.