Brian McGrain (MPA 2000) was selected to chair the Ingham County Board of Commissioners in January 2015, a continuation of his career in public service. Brian has over a decade of experience in community development, a passion he discovered during the course of his studies. He currently serves as the Associate Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM); additionally, he serves on the City of Lansing Board of Zoning Appeals, the Ingham County Land Bank, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, the Ingham County Economic Development Corporation and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau. CEDAM is a state-wide trade association which provides advocacy and training for members who are predominantly community-based nonprofit development organizations. In his position at CEDAM, Brian oversees budgets and finances, fundraising, grants, training and communication efforts, as well as partnership-building and advocacy initiatives.
Brian began his undergraduate studies at MSU in urban planning; through his academic work he connected with Dr. Ric Hula in the Political Science department to examine the reuse of industrial property. Through this connection Brian was offered a graduate assistantship and enrolled in the Master in Public Administration program. During the program Brian had an internship with the Local Initiative Support Corporation, the Lansing branch of a national economic development and affordable housing organization. This provided him with an opportunity to shift his focus from the “street-level” to higher level policy issues. As with many MPA and MPP alumni, his internship led to other opportunities and connections that he had not known of or not even considered before. He is grateful for his internship experience and the mentoring he received during it. Brian has found that the quantitative training he received from the program has remained very important for his career, in particular his quantitative skills have been useful for writing grants. Brian made many connections through the program and continues to meet MSU MPA/MPP alumni through his work. After completing his degree, Brian returned to MSU to work for the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research for four years where he split his time between land use research and political leadership training. While his primary interest had been land use he loved the work in political leadership training and made use of many of the things he learned there to inform his own run for public office. In 2008 Brian ran for County Commissioner and won the race for an open seat in a three-way primary. Brian found the skill set received from the program to be equally useful in office as it was in his other work.
Brian’s advice for current MPP students is to not be afraid of trying something and not liking it. Brian had been excited about an opportunity to work with a particular agency in college that he thought was going to be a good fit for his interests; after a few months he realized that he couldn’t see himself with a career in that agency and he was able to move on to explore other opportunities. He stresses how important internships and other opportunities to make connections are and that students should not hesitate to reach out and make use of their connections. Students should also consider volunteer opportunities as important ways to make connections that can become career opportunities. Brian would also like to encourage students to consider state and local positions and positions with cities and counties in particular. There are many opportunities at the lower levels of government that give people real opportunities to work with their community and see the impact of their work. You can learn more about Brian McGrain, the 10th district, and his platform on his website.