Alumni Profile: Claude DaCorsi, Auburn City Councilmember

With more than 30 years of experience under his belt, Claude DaCorsi, MPA 2011, didn’t need a Master’s in Public Administration to advance his career, but it was invaluable when he was elected to the Auburn City Council and appointed to the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

DaCorsi started working as an architectural draftsman right out of high school. Drafting provided the training ground for him to move into construction management, including developing housing, offices, schools, hospitals, and community centers throughout the western United States. By 1999, he was preserving and improving existing housing stock and constructing new community facilities as the director of capital construction for the King County Housing Authority,

DaCorsi earned his Master in Public Administration from Seattle University in 2011, not for career advancement but because “it was something I needed to do for myself.”

Three years later, DaCorsi ran for a seat on the Auburn City Council: “A lot of things needed to be done to move this city forward, and I felt that with my background with my experience and of course with my education, it was a good fit.”

Auburn faces challenges common to many jurisdictions throughout the country including concerns about infrastructure, public safety and budgeting. One of the most pressing issue is housing.

According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, the region estimates a population increase of 1 million and an additional 850,000 jobs between now and 2040. Auburn expects its population to grow from 75,000 to over 100,000 within the next 10 to 15 years.

“Our industry and businesses can support that growth, but unfortunately the housing situation cannot,” DaCorsi said. “As of right now, there’s not enough buildable land, not enough development going on, that will produce affordable housing fast enough for those people to have a place to live.”

The City of Auburn may explore other opportunities such as public-private partnerships, incentives for builders, and regulations. Unlike some other jurisdictions, Auburn does not have a Business and Occupation tax, which can discourage builders from coming into the area. However, lack of buildable land remains a key factor.

Appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Board in 2016 and named its policy chair, DaCorsi helps develop statewide policies to provide new affordable housing and preserve existing affordable housing stock. The board works closely with the Washington State Department of Commerce to set legislative priorities that are brought to the governor. Because the state does not have the financial resources for an immediate solution, the committee focuses on short-term and long-term solutions for creating a revenue stream for both housing and homeless services.

“I am very optimistic that we can address these issues; nothing is impossible,” DaCorsi emphasized. “If we put our combined wonderful minds together, if we really are intent on solving problems and not intent on creating barriers and obstacles, we may not eliminate but we can certainly put a huge dent into the issue of homelessness. On the affordable housing side, it’s to me almost a no-brainer, being in the construction business for over 40+ years how you can create new housing opportunities for people of all income levels by being just a little more creative than we are today.”

DaCorsi credits his MPA education with preparing him to be an elected official.

“All of the courses we had in the program train you to be a responsible government person,” he said. “It really allows you to understand the inner workings of government, of public service, and especially of public administration. Public administration is so complicated, even in a city like Auburn.”

In addition to his work on the City Council, DaCorsi is a member of the National League of Cities and its Transportation and Infrastructure Services Committee; Associated Washington Cities Federal Legislative Committee; King County Growth Management Planning Council; King County Regional Transit Committee; Affordable Housing Advisory Board (Policy Committee Chair); and Valley Regional Fire Authority Board of Governance. He recently completed a book, Alba Nuova: A New Dawn, The Story of a 19th Century Italian Immigrant, based on his great-grandfather, who immigrated to New York in 1898, and his family.

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Published January 2, 2017