As a clinical social worker and veteran professor in Barry’s School of Social Work, Dr. Mitch Rosenwald has long championed the benefits of bringing social work perspectives to government policy. At Barry, he teaches courses on the macro-level change social workers can impart through public service; and, in his personal life, he has held a variety of community leadership positions that have allowed him the chance to apply social work philosophies to municipal issues. Now, as a newly elected City Commissioner of Oakland Park, in Broward County, Dr. Rosenwald is modeling the positive impact social workers can have as public officials.
Since he was elected into office in November, Dr. Rosenwald has been working to realize his campaign objectives, prioritizing his goals to build stronger, greener neighborhoods, elevate local businesses for sustainable growth, and listen to and amplify the diverse voices of his constituents. “I’m a six-year resident of Oakland Park,” he says. “I love our city and I want us to shine even brighter.” To help guide his initiatives, he has been connecting with his community members both on the ground and virtually. He hosted “Oakland Park Community Check-In,” a social-media live chat that allowed all interested parties to speak and be heard. He considers such face-to-face interactions as essential to his job of representing the interests of his citizens.
As he works to serve his city, Dr. Rosenwald is also seeking ways to positively influence his professional community of fellow and future social workers. Recently, he spoke to the Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach units of the National Association of Social Workers Florida Chapter. During his talk, he shared his reflections as a social worker stepping into elected office and explored the possibilities for public policy when a social-work perspective is applied, or, as he says, when the city is viewed as the client. “We have social work mentors in higher places,” he says, referencing Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava as well as several representatives in the U.S. Congress. His approach to policymaking follows a social work-informed model that values equity and human relationships and prioritizes community organizing, crisis intervention, advocacy, and education. By sharing his own experience navigating public policy, he hopes to encourage other social workers to run for office.
Even though he is only at the start of his four-year term, Dr. Rosenwald is already earning praise for his positive approach to policymaking. In March, he was named elected Official of the Year by the Broward Unity of the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the largest professional social work organization in the U.S. Previously, he served as the NASW-FL president and earned the distinction of Social Worker of the Year in 2009. He is grateful for this latest award and considers it a testament to his ongoing commitment to ushering his community—his client—toward meaningful change.