IJ’s success comes in part from hiring talented people and creating an environment in which they can thrive. We give staff significant responsibilities right away and foster an entrepreneurial culture that rewards those who seize opportunities and make the most of them. Not only does this enable our staff to succeed at the tasks for which we hire them, but it also enables them to grow in exciting and sometimes unexpected ways.
Steven Anderson, director of IJ’s Castle Coalition, is a great example of how this works. Steven was hired three years ago to work with grassroots activists fighting eminent domain abuse. He had never worked as a grassroots organizer before. In fact, after graduating with his law degree from Wake Forest University in 1999, Steven had spent almost four years in a law firm in Charlotte, N.C., far removed from the frontlines of community-based activism. Steven, however, was not satisfied with pursuing a traditional law practice and wanted to do something to advance liberty. He applied to IJ because of his deep commitment to private property rights and took a chance on a new position that demanded totally new skills out of him.
Steven was not fazed for a minute. In his quietly earnest way, he immersed himself in the issues, communities and people at the forefront of the fight against eminent domain abuse. It quickly became apparent that he had a gift for connecting with people from all walks of life and quickly earning their respect and trust. In the year after the Kelo decision, when our Castle Coalition staff was traveling the country to secure state-based legislative reforms to protect private property from eminent domain abuse, Steven was an indispensable catalyst for reform in several key states. In the midst of such stress and intensity, his dry sense of humor and unflappable demeanor were welcomed by all who worked with him.
This transformation from reserved lawyer to grassroots organizer and now the director of the Castle Coalition would alone be impressive. But Steven was just beginning to unveil his talents. Soon he would debut as a scriptwriter extraordinaire and star in a DVD IJ produced to train property owners in the fight against eminent domain abuse. When we published our Eminent Domain Survival Guide, we recognized that we could train more activists if we created a DVD that supplemented the guide and offered crucial information in an engaging and accessible manner. As the article on page 6 describes, this was no small task.
Steven Anderson became IJ’s Clint Eastwood. He narrates the film, presenting just the right level of energy to sustain a 53-minute production. His dialogue synthesizes a tremendous amount of information from the Survival Guide and introduces an array of community activists he knows so well. In short, Steven revealed new talents that will help the Institute and our clients for years to come.
When the next city council teams up with a powerful developer to condemn people’s homes and small businesses, Steven will be there to tell them, “Go ahead, make my day.”
Chip Mellor is IJ’s president and general counsel.