On Monday, November 18, 2013, the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia welcomed a new executive director, Ted Qualli, to its talented team. Qualli brings years of non-profit leadership experience to PAL and is excited to help the organization actively carry out its mission of “Cops Helping Kids.” In order to introduce himself to the PAL community, Qualli recently sat down for an interview with the PAL blogging team.
1) What did you know about the Police Athletic League before you started and what was it that drew you to the organization?
When I worked for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, I remember PAL Day at City Hall because I was able to spend time with the PAL youth who served as DHS Commissioner for the day. We joked that she was my boss and that she should call for a press conference to announce she was sending everyone home early. That of course didn’t happen, but the actual Commissioner let her run a meeting, which I thought was a great experience for a child to see (and lead) the inner-workings of City government. I was drawn to PAL because it has such a unique structure and partnership with the City, which I believe creates a tremendous opportunity to help kids.
2) You have had a lot of successes in previous leadership roles. What organizational strengths do you bring to PAL from your vast experience in media, civic and non-profit leadership positions?
My biggest strength is a willingness to listen in an effort to gain a full understanding of the organizational challenges and opportunities. Effective communication is critical and so I place a lot of emphasis on ensuring decisions are informed from all levels and communicated with appropriate context. I also know what I don’t know and so am not afraid to ask for help. I often reach out to former colleagues, supervisors and mentors – the non-profit and government sectors are filled with resources and people who want to help.
3) The partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department is a key piece of PAL’s mission of “Cops Helping Kids.“ How do you envision working with the Police Department and Commanding Officer of the PAL Police Unit, Lieutenant William Eddis, and how will this partnership benefit the thousands of children PAL serves in its centers each day?
I’m really excited to work with Lt. Eddis and the Police Department. When I worked in the Mayor’s Office, I was fortunate to participate in numerous administrative and neighborhood meetings with Commissioner Johnson and his team. I was able to see and learn firsthand how the Police work to build relationships with the community. At PAL, we have an amazing opportunity to bring a Philadelphia Police Officer into the lives of neighborhood children through structured educational and athletic activities – with these relationships, we can open doors for children and make our neighborhoods safer. Lt. Eddis brings a unique perspective having been a PAL Officer and now serving as Commanding Officer of the PAL Unit. His insight and experience will be invaluable as we continue to develop our outcomes initiatives and programming.
4) What are your goals for your first few months as PAL’s Executive Director? What are your long term goals?
During the first few months, I want to get to know the team. PAL has been around for generations and there is a lot of institutional knowledge here. I want to spend time with Commanding Officer, Lt. Eddis and the members of his unit – the men and women who are on the ground working with the kids every day. We also have a great team of volunteers who I am eager to meet and support and I want to meet the kids and families we work with to understand what PAL means to them and their neighborhood. Long term, the goals are to standardize the PAL Center experience across the City so every PAL Center is equally inviting and appointed. We know we are changing lives and so continuing to build on the great work initiated in recent years around outcomes and data collection will be key.
5) When you’re busy at work and you’re swimming in on-the-job tasks, what inspirational song, artist or album is churning through the headphones of your iPod?
Great question. I love music and so listen to pretty much everything. On any given day, you may catch me listening to Elvis or Van Morrison, John Coltrane or G Love. I love Christmas music so pretty soon it will be my favorite holiday mix – a mix CD received as a gift some years back called Have A Holly Qualli Christmas. It’s all local artists (or those with some sort of local ties) singing various holiday tunes interspersed with WMMR holiday radio spots.