As director of the Department of Neighborhoods, TaKasha L. Francis oversees a protean operation aimed at improving the quality of life for Houston residents.
Everything from neighborhood cleanup and enhancement efforts, curbing anti-gang and juvenile delinquency through prevention programs, providing community outreach, and promoting civic engagement, diversity, cultural understanding and inclusiveness, Francis and the DON’s fingers are on the pulse of it.
She was recently nominated for and completed the Center for Houston’s Future Fall 2020 Virtual Business/Civic Leadership Forum, which is designed to further the Houston region as a top global community to work and live while developing policy around strategic issues facing the city’s nine county region. The inclusive dates for the forum were Sept. 10 through Nov. 5.
While the forum is not directly related to her role as director, Francis said the significant connection to her department is to improve the quality of life in Houston communities.
“This coalesces with the leadership forum’s purpose to advance Houston as a top global community to work and live,” she said.
A native Houstonian and graduate of Texas Southern University and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Francis previously served as State of Texas Assistant Attorney General in the Child Support Division.
Francis said among the topics of discussion covered included Housing, the Economy, Diversity, Inclusion, Education and Human Trafficking.
The main philosophy she said she came away with from the forum was how necessary innovation and collaboration are in order to successfully run an operation, while also carefully balancing flexibility and maintaining structure.
“I’m always excited to learn and welcome any experience to develop professionally and personally. I hoped to learn more about Houston’s economy, the inner-workings, and how it works,” she said.
Improving the city’s quality of life for residents also means confronting its most pressing issue: addressing the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted not only Houston, but communities across the globe.
Francis said there was much discussion among the forum participants regarding how the pandemic has impacted the city and how businesses needed to adjust to the personal, professional and economic impact it has brought.
“We specifically discussed how Houston’s recovery has to move away from our reliance on the oil and gas industry and focus on diversifying our economic landscape to adjust to growing virtual protocols,” she said.
“I’m also reviewing the Dept. of Neighborhoods services and protocols to determine how we can also adjust to these changes while maintaining our services in a safe and efficient manner.”
Francis said participating in the Houston’s Future Fall 2020 Virtual Business/Civic Leadership Forum has helped prepare her for 2021 by providing her a fresh outlook on collaboration and public/private partnerships.
“This is a vital component of our city’s success. I’m excited about furthering current partnerships and creating new ones,” she said.
Go to the Department of Neighborhoods link at https://www.houstontx.gov/neighborhoods/index.html to learn more information.