Andrew Lofton ’72 has had the good fortune to spend his long career doing work he loved. Now, after 47 years in public service, he is newly retired as executive director of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), a job he describes as the best of his career.
Overseeing the organization that serves more than 40,000 low-income residents and tenants was gratifying, he says, because “you can actually see the effect you’re having on people’s lives.”
A career in community service was a natural outgrowth of his upbringing. Born in rural Louisiana, Lofton was a few years old when his family moved to Washington state, eventually settling in Spokane. There were very few Black families in Spokane at the time, but it was a close-knit community where neighbors were always helping one another. “You looked out for each other in the Black community,” he says. “Spokane was very conservative, and there were challenges for African American families.”
But when Lofton decided to attend college at Puget Sound, he wasn’t thinking about social justice or community service. He just wanted to play football—and spent the next four years combining academics with playing defensive back. He also wasn’t thinking about community service when he graduated and took his first job in local government. But he discovered work that embraced his values and led him to increasingly responsible positions in Seattle city government, including working for two mayors. After several years as deputy executive director of the SHA, he became executive director in 2012.
During Lofton’s tenure, the housing authority undertook one of the most ambitious public housing redevelopment projects in the country: the $1.7 billion transformation of the Yesler Terrace public housing project into a healthy, thriving neighborhood. But Lofton is even prouder of the staff that he helped build. In particular, their shared commitment to serving the city’s most vulnerable populations was essential during the past year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd’s murder. Lofton hopes that their efforts in advancing racial and social justice will inspire lasting changes at the housing authority.
Lofton has much expertise to share with the community as he settles into retirement. But for now, he just plans to enjoy as many rounds of golf as he can.