United Way’s CAO says his heart is truly in his work

He’s proud to be part of an organization so important to people of color 

Craig Warren photo courtesy of United Way
Craig Warren photo courtesy of United Way

Craig Warren, named last May as the Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Chief
Administrative Officer, took a long and convoluted route to that position, where he said he will finally be fulfilling his long-term ambition to be of service to the community.

Warren was born in New Jersey and says that in his early years he lived “up and down the East Coast; I think we lived in Connecticut and Massachusetts and Maryland. And then we came back to New Jersey for high school. So I guess I would say I’m a Jersey boy.”

Before moving to Minnesota almost five years ago, Warren earned an undergraduate degree in political science and anthropology from Johns Hopkins University, and then a Masters’ degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.

But Warren stated that “Academically, I thought I was going to begin my career in the social sector. I was in ROTC as an undergraduate, so I knew I was going to spend at least four years on active duty — which I did. But I wasn’t sure whether I would make a career of the Army, or whether I would get out of the Army and go into something [else], either a community organization or state or city government.”

After leaving the Army, Warren spent about 15 years running his own management consulting practice and working with several Fortune 500 companies. “The Coca Cola company in Atlanta was a client of mine for several years,” Warren said, “and Rockwell Automation, and then I came out here with Best Buy” as senior director of human resources.

“But for me,” Warren explained, “my heart was always in the nonprofit sector. I took this diversion for several years. I feel like coming to United Way is bringing that back full circle, to where my heart always was.”

He told us at length about his feelings working with the United Way: “One of the things I reflect on about my presence at United Way — and I think about my experience in Minnesota as well — is it’s very affirming for me, as an African American male, to be on a very senior level, as a member of the executive team.

“So much of the great impact we have impacts people of color, who are like me, who are like people in my family,” Warren continued. “That for me is tremendously impactful. I’m probably one of the most senior African Americans in the history of the organization. I’m passionate about the work, and being a person of color and being able to lead and influence how we show up in the community is very important to me.

Warren describes himself as “thoughtful, compassionate, insightful, and direct.” He then added that “I would say that I’m a doting father, too: I have an 11-year-old daughter. I’m madly in love and proud of my daughter. And up there with my daughter, I’d say, is my wife.”

Warren ended by telling us, “The United Way is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and I just want to reiterate how much it means to me to be part of an organization that has such commitment to helping all citizens, but particularly people of color, to get out of circumstances that are bad, and get them on the path to economic self-sufficiency.”

Isaac Peterson welcomes reader responses to ipeterson@spokesman-recorder.com.