The newest district manager of Community Board 7 says he’s up for the challenge.
A former board member himself, Dustin Engelken, 27, starts the job Monday, May 12 after recently being appointed by his fellow board members.
Engelken, who lives in Bedford Park with his wife Farah and 6-month-old daughter Ayala, was appointed a member of the board shortly after moving there two years ago in order to get involved in his new home.
“For me, the community board was a great opportunity to dive right in to the neighborhood, find out who’s active in the community, what the issues are, and what kind of needs we have,” he said.
As district manager, Engelken will manage the community board, respond to constituents, and act as a liaison to city agencies. The board also covers Norwood, University Heights, Jerome Park, Fordham and Kingsbridge Heights.
“The over-arching theme is being the person who knows what’s going on in the neighborhood,” he said about the job.
Originally from Salina, Kansas, he transferred to Manhattan College his sophomore year and began to call the borough home.
In love with Bronx
“I immediately fell in love with the Bronx and for the most part haven’t left since then.”
After graduation, he got a job with Soundview Councilmember Annabel Palma, serving as a constituent liaison, communications manager, and legislative director.
“I really got to see from top to bottom how things work,” Engelken said. “It was an invaluable experience I think is going to translate well to this job,”
In 2012, he took a consulting job at Mercury Public Affairs, working with lobbyists.
“It was very interesting work, but at the same time it really drove home to me that my place is in government,” said Engelken. “I don’t want to be the person that lobbies for policy change, I want to be the person who drives that change.”
Quality of life is important to Board 7, he noted, with issues including littering, vandalism, graffiti and parks, as well as the big pet peeve of dog droppings.
One of major changes in the area, he added, is the rezoning of Webster Avenue, which will bring new residents and businesses.
“It’s really going to fundamentally reshape our neighborhood in the coming years,” he said. “Hopefully as district manager I’ll have an opportunity to actively shape that process.”
“I think a lot of people don’t understand what it is the community board does,” he noted. “So I think part of the job as district manager is advertising that your board is there and the services you provide.”
Getting people to come to the office and to board meetings, he said, is critical to its mission of serving the community.
“The more people you get involved in that way, the more you learn about the specific issues you need to address.”