Being fired is a nightmare. Having your firing become a national news story, has got to be worse.
And yet, I can’t help but feel that 66-year-old Jerry Foxhoven, the now former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, won’t be trapped in a prison of seclusion for long.
Foxhoven, a man who presents as most white, middle-aged government bureaucrats tend to, is a known superfan of the rapper Tupac. As a result, his leadership habit was to pepper his emails with Tupac-inspired memes, lyrics, and pep talks.
After two years in his post, Foxhoven was abruptly asked to resign in June.
His last great act before the Iowa governor informed him that “they were going in another direction,” was to send a mass email to some 4,300 agency employees to recognize Father’s Day, Tupac’s upcoming birthday, and his own work anniversary.
The email included a picture of a smiling Tupac. “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back,” he said, sharing a common Tupac meme. “It simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.” He also praised staffers, saying that it was “absolute honor to lead such a dedicated and committed group of people.”
“You are such a breath of fresh air, Jerry!” responded one staffer, according to NPR’s review of the emails:
“The hundreds of pages of emails reviewed by NPR show that by all accounts Foxhoven was widely admired by his staff and regularly took time to mentor subordinates. In one email he dispensed career advice, noting that he was inspired at the agency by the well-known Tupac song ‘Changes.’”
But at least one employee did complain, and Foxhoven fans worry that the hater triggered his abrupt dismissal.
“As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction,” a spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds said.
Superfans are interesting people. As a boss, probably even more so.
Foxhoven regularly included Tupac in his communications. He played the rapper’s music on “Tupac Fridays” in the office, he assigned Tupac reading assignments for an ethics class he taught at Drake University. He even celebrated his own 65th birthday with Tupac themed baked goods including cookies decorated to say “Thug Life.”
That said, it takes an unusual degree of privilege and position power to inflict your personal passion on everyone who reports to you.
Foxhoven himself is worried that he’d holla’d too much, telling NPR that he wonders if he had gotten his words of wisdom from Barry Manilow instead, things might not have gotten this krazy.
“I always try to assume the best of everybody, and I can’t imagine that [the governor] would base her decision on the Tupac incident,” he says. “If this is the reason, I’m really disappointed.”
But times goes on, and everybody grows.
Now, Foxhoven hopes that there are better dayz ahead and as a society we’ll start making changes.
“It’s important for us to break down those stereotypes: if you listen to rap music, you’re a criminal or dangerous. It’s not true at all,” he told NPR. He was particularly disturbed by a recent news story about a 17-year-old Arizona boy was stabbed for listening to rap music.
Foxhoven hopes in the future that his story will help in “having open discussions about race and what we have in common, instead of what separates us.”
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Africa will be home to the next tech boom Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, with increasingly vibrant cities and a large population of tech-savvy people under 25. This, says Omoju Miller, the head of machine learning at software development platform Github, is a recipe for breakthrough innovation. "We are the at edge of another kind of technology frontier, and this time around, it is not happening in San Francisco, it is taking place in Africa," she said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference this week. The Lagos, Nigeria native recounted how she was able to access ridesharing and food delivery apps during a recent visit home, and how her rural relatives use mobile payments effortlessly. “This is going to radically change what the technology environment is going to look like." Fortune
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Tamara El-Waylly helps produce raceAhead.