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Richard A. Stafford

Richard A. Stafford

Distinguished Service Professor

Rick Stafford has been a Heinz College Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy since 2006.

Prior to his Heinz appointment, Stafford served as Chief Executive Officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. The Conference worked to undertake several major regional initiatives in the Pittsburgh region in public governance, regional economic development, education and workforce development, and civic reorganization. Prior to the Conference, much of his career had been dedicated to public service.

Prior to his Conference tenure, he served as Secretary of Legislative Affairs in the cabinet of Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh during the governor’s first term and as chief of staff for the last sixteen months of his second term. Stafford was Director of Research and Issues for the Thornburgh for Governor Committee and served as the Director of Transition between the administrations of Governor Milton Shapp and Governor Thornburgh.

Previously to his service in state government, he served as Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, a Research Associate in the Urban Systems Institute at Carnegie Mellon, and a System Analyst at Westinghouse Research Labs. 

While serving in his professional governmental and civic roles, Stafford also helped launch two family owned businesses.  The first, FARR Communications, Inc., owned an FM/AM radio station, licensed in Charleroi, Pa.  The family sold the business in 2000.  The second, Laurel Vista, Inc., owns and operates Laurel Vista Farm in Somerset County, Pa. He has also done extensive consulting for profit and nonprofit organizations.

Stafford’s current teaching and research build on his career since graduating with a masters degree in public policy from Carnegie Mellon in 1972.  His classroom focus has been on the intersection of elective politics and policy making, particularly at the state and local government level.  He develops case studies to illustrate principles of what he defines as “engineering public policy change.”  The term embraces the “soup to nuts” process of taking an idea from the research stage through the political challenge of “getting the votes” to turn the idea into actual public policy.

From 2009 to 2018, he directed the launch of two initiatives leading to the creation of CMU’s Traffic21 Institute and CMU’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute.  He continues to work with these two interdisciplinary Institutes as well as CMU’s Block Center for Society and Technology.. 

Stafford is a recipient of Carnegie Mellon University’s Alumni Merit Award and the Heinz College’s Public Service Award, an inductee into the Hall of Fame of Junior Achievement of Southwest Pennsylvania and a recipient of the University of Pittsburgh’s Coleman Award for Civic Leadership.


Courses Taught

  • 90-771 - Jobs & Communities Left Behind
  • 90-785 - Elections, Politics and Public Policy Making

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