My name is Gary Rettberg. I majored in Communications/Sociology as an undergrad, and got my Masters in Public Policy in 2018. My academic interests include health policy, economic development, community development, and public policy at every level specifically in California and New Jersey. I also am an amateur historian with a focus on Southern New Jersey, specifically Gloucester County.
I grew up in Southern New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia. My family was and is quite poor so my parents both worked a lot during my childhood, often working two jobs or more. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and great-grandmother. I went to catholic school until the 5th grade (paid for by my great-grandmother), then public school after she could no longer afford it. I actually learned a lot more and had way more opportunities at public school. I believe that move was the catalyst for me to go to college. Otherwise, I would have been like many others in my family and went straight to work after high school. While we did struggle, overall I would say I had a positive childhood. We never went hungry or got evicted from our apartment. Ultimately, I was able to get the education that my parents never did. In pursuing my Master’s in Public Policy, I wanted to make a positive change through the power of nonprofit work. Part of my passion came from my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at the age of 18. I saw first hand how dangerous a lack of healthcare and support systems can be. Through my career I have strived to make a positive impact in underserved communities whether it be in New Jersey, Arkansas, or California. While each community has different needs, I believe every person deserves access to essential resources like healthcare, housing, and good jobs.
I am the Research Manager at the Center for Social Innovation. I lead an ever growing team of very smart and capable graduate students. Together we produce high quality quantitative and qualitative research, specifically focusing on the Inland Empire. While we partake in many projects, the overarching theme of each project attempts to change the local narrative that our region is plagued with "problems". While we do have issues to contend with, there are many great assets in the region and with these assets and a strong community, comes opportunities for the Inland Empire to be a hub of innovation, both in an economic sense but in terms of community engagement as well.
I am increasingly encouraged by the work our community partners do to strengthen the region. In terms of collaboration and cooperation for Census outreach, the Inland Empire was organized early and was able to create an inclusive table, spreading the work across the entire region. This work is so important because the I.E. is home to many hard to count populations. This type of collaboration was very encouraging to see. I hope that we can use this Census work as a building block to tackle other issues in the region in an inclusive way, making the Inland Empire a more equitable place for everyone.