Drew Schaffer became Executive Director of Legal Aid in 2017. In the past four years he has guided Legal Aid through unprecedented challenges, including a global pandemic. This fall, Drew and his family are relocating to Arizona, and we wish him all the best on his next adventure. As he prepares for the transition, he answered a few questions about his move.
Why Arizona? Why now?
I love the natural landscape in the southwestern United States, and the sense of cosmic time in the desert. The past year and a half has crystallized the importance of proximity to family, and we have an emerging family center in the southwest. That’s the driving factor, and the timing makes sense for us right now.
That said, I can’t describe how much I’ll miss my colleagues, community, and the many partners who support our cause of equal justice for all. In many ways, this has been my dream job. It’s bittersweet to be leaving, and I’ll always be a supporter.
Looking over the past four years, what are the highlights?
Through the past four years of instability, uprising, and a global health emergency, my colleagues have done incredible, steady work for our clients and community.
I’ve been especially excited about the innovative litigation we’ve done, linked with sustained long-term systemic policy advocacy. We’ve fought in court for the rights of people with disabilities to live and work in the community. We’ve brought creative litigation to protect unhoused communities whose rights were violated by law enforcement and government. We’re working now on impact litigation to protect people living in shelter settings from being evicted without due process. Our advocates continue the work one client at a time, defending people’s most basic human rights.
Internally, I’m proud of the transformation Legal Aid has started to undertake on racial equity. We’ve made firm commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we’ve taken active steps to advance those initiatives.
As Executive Director, my job has been to make the case for Legal Aid and that’s an easy case to make. I share the stories boldly and proudly, doing all I can to sustain the fight against ongoing systemic harm and expand our vision and focus. My colleagues inspire me daily.
Any advice for the new Executive Director?
Be bold. Justice only happens when people fight to make it a reality. That’s what we do at Legal Aid. My hope is that we all continue working for justice, with courage and clarity of purpose, wherever we are.