Meet the Newest Member of Village Leadership — Cathy Solomon, Chief Operating Officer
Cathy Solomon joined N Street Village as Chief Operating Officer in March 2017. She has over 20 years of operations and finance experience in both the private and public sectors, most recently in the Obama White House as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Administration. Cathy previously served the Obama Administration as Chief Financial Officer for the Executive Office of the President, and as Advisor for Recovery Act Implementation in the U.S. Department of Education. She managed the budget for the Presidential Transition Team, and served as a Budget Director and Financial Operations Director on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. She has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from Stanford University. Cathy and her husband live in Washington and have two grown daughters; she is adjusting to the empty nest by spending more time biking, hiking, and going to the theater.
We recently sat down with Cathy for an informal interview.
N Street Village: Why did you want to join the N Street Village team?
Cathy: I was a political appointee in the Obama administration so my job officially ended on January 19, 2017 and leaving the White House really makes you think long and hard about what you want to do next. I did a lot of soul searching and knew I wanted to use my operations and finance skills to help and organization with a mission that I cared about deeply.
When I was leaving the White House, one of my favorite employees who was a career civil servant said she that she knew exactly where I should go – she recommended N Street Village. She had the good fortune of attending a session led by N Street Village Program Manager, Kenyatta Brunson, and Village ED, Schroeder Stribling. My friend was so impressed by the mission and recognized that N Street Village was in a pivotal place where my skills could be useful. I sent myself an email to look into N Street Village, but before I even got a chance another friend saw the Chief Operating Officer posting and sent it to me.
I’m a city person – I grew up in suburban Pittsburgh. I lived in Chicago for 23 years – in the city. That’s what really awakened me to the need for deeper, boarder social services. I learned through educational ventures in Chicago that wraparound services were so important for the success of any program, especially to help break the cycle of poverty. I see this wraparound approach at the Village and this really spoke to me.
N Street Village: Even though you’ve only been here a short time, can you describe the Village in 3 words or less?
Cathy: Passion, dedication and community.
N Street Village: What makes N Street Village unique to you?
Cathy: The focus on community and empowerment – the fact that N Street Village is more about just a meal and a bed. I met Cheryl and she talked about coming to the Village Day Center for the first time for a meal and someone asked her what she wanted– no one had ever asked her what she wanted before. The respect for the individual and developing a community where you’re valued and known is really amazing. Being part of a community where people know you and value you is huge.
The focus on empowerment was something that really struck me through the interview process as well. The way I’ve always approached management in terms of empowering people to be their best so the organization can be its best – that’s how N Street Village is empowering women, to achieve the best life that they can.
N Street Village: How long have you lived in the D.C. area?
Cathy: I came to D.C. in November 2008 – the Sunday after the Presidential election. I was asked to be a member of the Obama transition team and I had a week to move. I lived in a temporary apartment in Penn Quarter and something that really struck me, and many of my colleagues who came from Chicago, was the homeless population. There’s a homeless population in Chicago, but it’s less visible. Downtown is built on two levels and the majority of the homeless population stays on what’s called “Lower Wacker Drive” – it’s underground so not something you see every day, unlike D.C.
In 2009 after my family moved from Chicago, we moved into a townhouse on the east side of Dupont Circle. I’ve seen 14th Street develop in the 8 years that we’ve lived here. I’ve seen things improve, but you know that part of that is pricing people out as well. Part of urban life is making it thrive for all of the residents – that’s another important part of the work at N Street Village. Knowing that you’re doing a job that helps individuals in your neighborhood is incredible gratifying.
N Street Village: We all have tourist friends come to town, where is your favorite place to take them?
Cathy: A walk around the Tidal Basin. I love the beauty of the memorials – that’s my favorite memorial walk because you get Jefferson, FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. all together.
N Street Village: What’s the last movie you saw and really like?
Cathy: Hidden Figures. I was a math and economics major at Dartmouth. The school had only been coed for only seven years when I started; there were not a lot of women math majors. I was an oddity, which had hurdles, but nothing like the prejudices the women of Hidden Figures experienced. In a way, I could relate though, and it was incredible moving.
N Street Village: What is your favorite place in D.C.?
Cathy: Capital Crescent Bike Trail. My perfect weekend has a long walk one day and 2-hour bike ride the other day.
Please join us in welcoming Cathy to the Village!