Kerry Duggan has traveled the world, but she always knew she would come back to Detroit.

That conviction came to her at age 18 during a Copenhagen coffee house conversation with a stranger.

“I was already on my soapbox, pontificating to a fellow traveler about all the big issues I wanted to fix in the world,” said Duggan, who traveled Europe on the Nike All-Star basketball team. “The woman listened to me and then asked a simple question: ‘Can you drink the water where you’re from?’”

At that time, said the Farmington Hills native, you couldn’t even “stick a toe” in the Rouge River.

With that question, and its answer, Duggan’s broad focus became very narrow.

“That random conversation made me realize: it’s always about home,” said Duggan. “Take care of the place you’re from, or what’s the point?”

In 2011, while at the Energy Department, she was selected for President Barack Obama’s Detroit task force, which she led as a deputy through the end of the Administration. She simultaneously served as deputy director for policy, directly advising Vice President Joe Biden on energy, environment and climate.

One of her proudest accomplishments in this position includes making the technical case for the conversion to LED streetlights in Detroit. 

“It’s really about the kids being safe, the neighborhoods being safe, it’s a quality of life that everyone deserves.” 

Another feather in her cap: She worked to place an electric vehicle in Biden’s motorcade for his final domestic policy trip as vice president, which just happened to be to Detroit in January 2017. It was the first electric vehicle in a presidential or vice presidential motorcade since 1902.

Duggan spent seven years traveling between Washington, D.C., and Detroit before making the move home with her husband and two children.

“I always kept one foot in the door,” said Duggan, who happily traded a four-mile, 45-minute commute for a nine-minute walk. 

As a resident in her home state, Duggan made the move from public service to private sector as a partner for sustainability at Ridge-Lane, a strategic advisory firm and merchant-bank. 

“As our CEO knows, I’m unabashedly a Detroiter,” said Duggan. “I’ve never made a secret about it: drawing business to Detroit is my big goal.”

 

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Original story by Laura Cassar: Crain's Detroit Business

PUBLISHED

10-12-2018
Kevin Chu