White House Appointee Talks Finding a Purposeful Career in Public Service

Acacia Salatti talks leading a purpose-driven organization.

Career
(Image: A.Salatti)

It’s one thing to land a job with a paycheck; it’s another thing to land a job with a paycheck, purpose, and the ability to touch millions of people across the country. For Acacia Salatti, a proud southern woman from Bamberg, South Carolina, she spends her days living out her purpose as the director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (Partnership Center) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Appointed under the Obama Administration, Salatti directs African American outreach at the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs. Black Enterprise caught up with Salatti to learn more about her day-to-day work.

Black Enterprise: Describe a typical work day for you.

Salatti: Meetings, emails, and more meetings. And I travel a lot, speaking to groups across the country about the priorities of the Secretary and HHS.

Tell us about the work you’re most proud of.

I’m most proud of the diverse public health partnerships that my office has created with faith and community leaders. Whether it has been working on H1N1, or health disparity reduction, or the crisis in Flint, or mental health, my office continues to develop robust relationships with faith, African American, and community organizations on public health.

No one in my family is surprised at what I do for a living. This is what they raised me to be.

What’s the most pressing problem that your department has faced?

My biggest challenge was the first ACA (Affordable Care Act) enrollment. We had worked so hard with faith and community groups to explain the law and its benefits. I was on my way to travel to two cities to give presentations on the law when the government shut down. And then the healthcare.gov website did not work as expected. That was a difficult time. I baked 25 pies during that time when I was stuck at home!

How did you overcome these challenges? 

I knew how many people, especially those in vulnerable and hard to reach communities, were counting on us to help them and their families get enrolled. So many people did not have health insurance, because they had a pre-existing condition or could not afford the premiums. The ACA is for my generation what the Civil Rights Act was for my parents and my grandparents’ generation. This is a transformational law that will have a positive impact for future generations. Nearly 17 million Americans have gained coverage since 2013, cutting the insurance rate down to single digits.

What qualities have helped you succeed thus far?

My humility, my hard work ethic, and my ability to always remember that I have the privilege and honor to serve in this historic administration and to work for the American people. I have the coolest job in the world. I get to travel to communities across the country helping people who look like me.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a young woman who wants to pursue a public service career?

Do it!!! Now more than ever, we need talented young women of mission to serve. Being a public servant is one of the greatest things that I ever have done. Trust yourself and do it.