July 3, 2013
"You could say it is any MPA's dream project," says Craig Middleton (MPA '87) of his leading role in establishing the Presidio Trust in 1996, a federal agency that manages the Presidio of San Francisco, a national park site that previously served as a military post under the flags of three nations. The Trust was, and remains, a unique agency. The law that created the Presidio Trust presented a potentially risky challenge for its leaders; it gave the trust until 2013 to become financially self-sufficient or the Presidio would be sold off.
"This had never been done before and we needed to be inventive," says Craig of the transformation of the Presidio into a place that welcomes the public. He was the Presidio Trust's first employee and, as executive director, recently celebrated the important milestone of achieving financial self-sufficiency for the Presidio.
After graduating from MIIS in 1987, Craig went to work for California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. During his more than five years in Washington D.C., he had a front seat to many of the most pressing US foreign relations issues of the time, such as the response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He was part of the first U.S. human rights delegation to visit China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, and worked with the Congresswoman to broker the bi-partisan deal to transform the Presidio into a national park with minimal cost to taxpayers.
To reach financial independence, the Trust leadership developed public-private partnerships to rehabilitate and lease the Presidio's buildings, many of which are historic. Major tenants include Lucasfilm, the Disney Family Museum, and several nonprofit organizations. The Trust also leases about 1,200 residential units. This arrangement is far from traditional, but for Craig it is totally in line with the pragmatic, goal-oriented focus of his education at the Monterey Institute. "I feel the school really prepared me for what I am doing now," he says. He especially appreciated the combination of intellectual rigor and pragmatism, and the opportunity to work with people of diverse backgrounds and with different points of view. "A lot of what I learned at MIIS has served me well in my career."