Charles Burton

Master of Urban Planning - 2015

Management and Program Analyst
Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce

Please describe your current job duties.

The Economic Development Administration focuses on both economic development integration and recovery; in my position, I focus on recovery specifically. Any time there’s a disaster-related issue that affects a state or region, my office is in place to assist those regions in working on their economic recovery. I help shepherd that process along by doing stakeholder engagement and inter-departmental engagement (working with FEMA, HUD, and other federal departments). My focus is on economic recovery and helping communities rebuild after a disaster through economic development integration, bringing resources into communities. For example, in Louisiana, we’ve been assisting the state in recovering from the impact of multiple hurricanes as well as COVID-19. We’ve been working with stakeholders at both the state and local level to create strategic economic plans. My department is part of the federal government, so of course we can provide financial resources, but I focus on making sure we understand what’s happening on the ground. It’s important to me that I understand what communities actually need, instead of just assuming we know.

How did being in New York City impact your professional journey?

I’m from Los Angeles originally, and part of the reason I decided to go to Wagner was because outside of LA, I thought New York City would be the best place to learn about urban planning, and it was. I’m also a veteran, and I came to Wagner from a small university in California. Coming to New York opened my eyes to different people, networks, and professional development opportunities. Learning about urban planning though, being in New York was a consistent positive. Walking to class, you have to go through the city, and you get a sense of the who, what, and why people act the way they do in cities. There’s no other place I’d want to learn about urban development and planning. I also like to focus on the equity piece as a Black man in America. Being a Black man in America has always been hard and it’s been heightened since George Floyd. So to me, the equity lens is really important. It’s one thing to provide economic stimulus to a region, but it’s another to understand who the people are. NYU allowed me to open my mind to different types of economies and ways of thinking.