Young Professional 2021: Jet JT Richardson

Jet Richardson

Jet JT Richardson

Executive Director
Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity

What’s your dream vacation?
To traverse the Trans-Siberian
Railroad, from Saint Petersburg,
Russia to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Favorite music?
The Beatles, Billy Joel and
Elton John but I also listen to a
lot of showtunes.

Favorite pandemic purchase?
My home

First thing you check on your
phone in morning?
The snooze button, but I
also recently discovered the
Instagram page,
Bad Taxidermy!

Age: 38

Current city of residence: Richland

How long have you worked for Habitat? 1.5+ years (19 months)

Briefly describe your company:
We at Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity believe that all residents of Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties should have the opportunity for a decent, affordable place to live. And I personally believe that homeownership is the most effective way to combat generational cycles of poverty.

Therefore we build affordable housing for area residents between 30%-80% of the average median income.

We partner with local businesses and banks to provide access to resources and financing; and we rely on our incredible network of community volunteers to help keep labor cost low and carry out our mission – to put God’s love into action, by bringing people together to build homes.

Education and certifications:
Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation: Master of Science, Urban Planning; School of International Public Affairs: Master of International Affairs, Development and Conflict Resolution.

Seattle Pacific University: Bachelor’s in business administration, emphasis in international business and marketing, minor in international studies.

Exeter College, Oxford: International Studies Negotiations Short Course.

Briefly describe your job and how you got into it: As the executive director for our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate my general role is to set the strategic vision, fundraise and oversee the daily operations which includes our homeownership program, the construction site and our retail store.

I also have the opportunity to engage in advocacy at the city, state and federal level aimed at promoting better affordable housing policy specifically targeting homeownership opportunities for our very hardworking local low-income residents.

I first became interested in urban planning issues as a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Senegal, West Africa.

I was fascinated by the way in which Dakar, the region’s largest city, was able to move over a million people around without a reliable source of electricity, meaning no stoplights (although since then there have been a couple few newly installed).

From that experience my interest in international affairs and development would always be linked to urban planning. Housing is a universal priority and in my opinion the embodiment of Maslow’s foundational need (food, water, warmth, rest), where you sleep at night is important and housing – especially homeownership – even more so.

How did you earn your first dollar?
My dad would bribe us to do yard work by burying coins in the dirt, but my brother usually found them first forcing me to look for work at Red Lobster as a busser/host.

I’ll always appreciate my time in the restaurant/hospitality field and I’m drawn to resumes of people who don’t shy away from listing that experience – it’s a bonding opportunity.

Did the pandemic affect your daily work life? If so, how?
Only in that Netflix seems to be greenlighting every single idea, regardless of quality or subject matter, which means there are a lot more opportunities to watch meaningless programming.

Habitat for Humanity, specifically Tri-County Partners, has been blessed with community support through which we have been able to successfully navigate this chapter in world history.

I am very grateful to our committed staff and volunteers who take this work very seriously and will continue to see it to completion.

And even though this has been a difficult 15+ months, we have a lot of fun doing it! If my life is in any way different because of the pandemic, it is richer due to the relationships that we have continued to cultivate between staff, our family partners, engaged community partners and our dedicated volunteers.

What was your dream job as a child?
In high school I was drawn to architecture and design. However (cringe) in junior high I do remember briefly telling my dad I wanted to be a stand-up comedian (I think it was after seeing my first episode of “Seinfeld”), and I once tried out for the elementary school talent show, my talent being somersaults.

Let’s just say the journey to my “dream job” was a winding road and it really didn’t come to me until much later.

Tell us about your community involvement/community service.
Currently I am a volunteer member of the Richland Arts Commission; I serve on Habitat for Humanity Washington State’s board of directors, focusing primarily on state level affordable housing policy/advocacy and sustainability; and Habitat for Humanity International’s Rural Advisory Council raising awareness of our local housing issues with the greater national Habitat for Humanity network.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
I trust my staff and volunteers to do their jobs and to do them well (which they have yet to disappoint). I’ve always worked better from an office rather than my home, so when I’m home I make it a priority to disconnect.

Do you have family? Pets?
We have a family dog, Wrigley, a cockapoo.

What brought you to the Tri-Cities?
Did you grow up here?
I grew up in the Tri-Cities, graduated from Richland High School class of 2001. I moved back to be closer to family and to shift gears professionally from foreign policy to urban planning – that was when the opportunity with Habitat for Humanity became available and I applied for it.