‘Recovering attorney’ looks for narrow entry points on gun violence initiative August 3, 2022

‘Recovering attorney’ looks for narrow entry points on gun violence initiative

August 3, 2022

Title: Assistant City Manager 

City: Hampton, Va. 

Steven Bond describes himself as a “recovering attorney”—a onetime practicing lawyer and prosecutor whose harrowing bout with pneumonia prompted him to rethink his priorities and how to achieve them. 

He found that path in his hometown of Hampton, where he’s been the assistant city manager for nearly eight years, and where he’s heading up a city task force to try to produce solutions for an issue that plagues so many American cities: gun violence. 

Bond participated in a special session on collaboration hosted in April by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and says the experience gave him a valuable new perspective on Hampton’s anti-gun violence efforts. 

“It got me into a deeper place when it came to not only problem construction, but how to properly scope through things, making sure that I'm getting to measurable results,” Bond says. “And it helped me understand that some of the efforts that I had been trying to make on gun violence had failed because they were really just too broad. People got paralyzed because they were trying to do too much and not finding the correct entry points.” 

The major change that the collaboration track experience prompted for the Hampton team was to look for manageable entry points rather than trying to immediately solve a gigantic, society-wide problem. Bond says he was very transparent in telling the team he saw the initiative as a way to grapple with larger issues of systemic racism and inadequate investment in parts of the community—but came to realize that was too large an immediate task. 

“I realized that that was much too broad of a problem to be the entry point to start with,” Bond says. “All of those things are important, and I still plan to get to those things, and I still plan to have those conversations, but narrowly tailoring our effort to something that was actionable made a lot of sense.” 

That entry point has become focusing on strategies to address small numbers of individuals in specific areas of the city who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of gun violence in Hampton. “If we really concentrate on those people and their social networks, which is how gun violence tends to spread, and we focus on those areas and how we can make them less welcoming to crime and violence, then we can really make an impact on the numbers and on the suffering and the trauma in all the communities that surround those areas,” Bond says. “For me, that was the light bulb moment—to really narrow the problem as much as I care about the larger picture.” 

Pro tip: “No matter how passionately you feel about an issue, leave open the possibility that you may be incorrect about the solution—and be open to being persuaded.”