Born and raised in Fayetteville, N.C., Douglas Scarboro has chosen to make Memphis his home. As the executive director of the Office of Talent and Human Capital for the City of Memphis, his job is to help others realize the opportunities and recognize the same assets that he has found here.
While nonprofits such as the New Memphis Institute, and corporate employers such as FedEx and International Paper, are players in the same human resource game, Scarboro said that when he first entered city government, “there was not another office that we had seen that focused specifically on recruiting, retaining and attracting talent for an overall metropolitan area.”
Rashana Lincoln, director of community engagement for New Memphis, a position previously held by Scarboro, works closely with the government office and says that Scarboro “understands what it means to be a young professional breaking into the community” as a transplant to Memphis.
“Having come through New Memphis and being a fellow really set him up to excel in his current role because he is part of a network of people that are committed to moving the city forward,” Lincoln said.
Even as he navigated his way through an alphabet of degrees – a bachelor’s from Morehouse College, master’s from Campbell University, doctorate from the University of Memphis – Scarboro was uncertain of his final goal, other than the want to help affect change within a community. It was a lofty goal and one first presented while a student at Morehouse and during 1996 when the Summer Olympics was in full swing in Atlanta.
“I saw the city start changing,” Scarboro said. “Atlanta was already on that path to being the big metropolitan city of the South that it is now but, really, more than the infrastructure changes and building up the stadiums and the like, you start to see the mentality of the people change. People started to think ‘why not Atlanta’ instead of ‘why Atlanta?’”
Scarboro brought that mentality and positivity to Memphis, a city with its own unique characteristics and potential. Though it’s the hometown of wife, Nichole, settling here was not a foregone conclusion. But when the couple began looking at what they wanted in a home – low cost of living, close-knit neighborhoods, good schools and a good place to raise children – all roads led to a city on a bluff.
“We wanted to be engaged in the city at an early age where we’re not waiting until we’re 50 or 55 to be on a board somewhere, or be engaged in the process of government or be actively involved in the critical social aspects of a city as far as working with nonprofits.”
Executive director, Office of Talent and Human Capital for the City of Memphis
“Also, we wanted to be engaged in the city at an early age where we’re not waiting until we’re 50 or 55 to be on a board somewhere, or be engaged in the process of government or be actively involved in the critical social aspects of a city as far as working with nonprofits,” said Scarboro who sits on the boards of St. George’s Independent School and EmergeMemphis.
In addition to his role with the Office of Talent and Human Capital, Scarboro wears a second hat as the chief learning officer for the Office of Talent Development, responsible for assessing and developing training initiatives for City of Memphis employees. The Urban Fellows program grew from this and facilitates the recruitment of college students into government to work on large projects in an effort to learn how government works and to create a potential pipeline of talent for city government, as well as giving City Hall a sense of what sort of talent is available.
The comforts and conveniences Scarboro enjoys as a citizen are the same he wants others to realize in his city. As the father of two young sons, he appreciates the parks and the public school system they’re a part of. His family lives in Midtown and the patchwork neighborhoods of Memphis with their networks of neighbors, entertainment and restaurants are just what he said he and his wife were looking for in a place to start a family. Scarboro is, in effect, a case study for younger people who want to move to, and find success in, Memphis.
“You look at a lot of research and do a lot of work with programs and, really, it comes down to opportunities and amenities being the two things that I’ve seen that, time and time again, you need if you’re looking to draw people into a city and have them want to stay there,” Scarboro said. “Obviously jobs and being able to come in and be gainfully employed, but then also opportunity for being able to be on a board, being able to take part, to see a need in your community and being able to do something about it.”