Harold Pettigrew brings passion, vision, determination, and deep expertise to OFN’s lead role
In June, Harold B. Pettigrew Jr. joins OFN as its third president and CEO.
Board Chair Donna Gambrell spoke for the OFN team when she said in last week’s announcement, “We are delighted that Harold is bringing his economic development experience and commitment to equitable economic opportunity to OFN. Harold has qualities that are so critical to this unique position and industry, among them expertise, passion, vision, and determination.”
These characteristics are just some of the driving forces behind Harold’s 20-year career advancing economic inclusion, growing economic opportunity, and strengthening communities, especially those least served by traditional finance.
Currently, Harold leads Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif), one of the capital region’s leading CDFIs. (See him pictured above [left] with Eddie Lofton, owner of JC Lofton Tailors, a Wacif client). Before Wacif, he held positions with Prosperity Now and District of Columbia and New York City governments. One of his first professional jobs was leading the Eastern Market restoration project after a three-alarm fire destroyed the historic Washington, D.C. building and displaced merchants.
Harold’s love for community development is rooted in his Washington, D.C. childhood. He came of age at a time when the city regularly made headlines for any number of negative reasons. Behind the headlines, Pettigrew saw people and neighborhoods struggling without resources, and he admired neighbors and family members who fought for resources necessary for change.
After earning a master’s degree in urban planning, with a specialization in economic development, from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Harold found his professional home in community development, particularly finance.
“Capital opens catalytic opportunity. Finance is my chosen vehicle for change, for helping people from all walks of life be who they want to be,” he said to OFN staff during a recent meeting. “What we’re doing with CDFIs is fighting for home — for people and place. CDFIs help communities and individuals realize their hopes and visions for themselves.”
Today, Harold feels an increased — and personal — urgency for the work. Nine months ago he and his wife welcomed a son. Being a father for the first time, in part, influenced Harold’s decision to join OFN, where he will lead broader transformation across rural, urban, and Native communities.
Climate change and environmental justice, wealth and financing gaps, and deep social, racial, and economic division are among the issues he finds most vexing and urgent. And he believes CDFIs can play an even bigger role in addressing them.
“I look at my son and the world he’ll experience and inherit and ask what more I can be doing — what more can CDFIs be doing — to fight the threats our children face,” he said. “Our industry has had some remarkable attention, growth, and investment in recent years. At the same time, we have challenging times ahead and must think very creatively in how we show up for our communities. I am ready to dive into this work at OFN.”
And OFN is excited to have him. Harold joins an organization poised for accelerated growth, deeper impact, and greater influence. Guided by a three-year strategic plan, OFN has an ambitious agenda to grow and strengthen the CDFI industry with capital, capacity building, visibility, workforce development, and advocacy.
Harold’s first day with OFN is June 1. In the coming months, we’ll share more about our new president and CEO on the blog.