30 Days of Dreamers & Doers | Gerald 'Mike' Kuhn II
Gerald Michael Kuhn is the Assistant Director of Human Rights and Relations for the City of Omaha. He works for the city government downtown at City Hall, responsible for educating and enforcing all housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination complaints within the City of Omaha. He also oversees the Small Emerging Business program for the City. In this role, he ensures that the Mayor's goal of at least 14% of city contracts going to small and emerging businesses is met.
What is your earliest memory being involved in your business?
I grew up like most kids in North Omaha, addicted to sports and hoping it was a way out of poverty. I was blessed to go on to play Division 1 basketball at Hampton University in Virginia, where basketball gave me a purpose to serve and help people through being a role model and mentoring. This passion to serve set me on a Human Services and Leadership path. I have run several foster care, mental health, and intellectual disability agencies for the past 10 years. I've even had the opportunity to run a residential services department for one of the biggest housing authorities in the country (Detroit Housing Commission). I plan to continue to grow and serve the Omaha metro Area. My earliest memory of helping people was in college (Hampton University); the team sponsored a Christmas dinner and toy give away for the Community. The way the children's eyes lit up and their parents gratitude for the assistance during the holiday spirit sparked an eternal fire for helping people that will never go out.
What about this lane makes you so passionate about it?
I am passionate about people Because it was family and community that got me to where I am today.
GMK: My mother and grandparents instilled good morals and values within me to always help someone else because "you never know when you are going to need help." I love knowing that through my direction and the Mayor's authority, the Human Rights and Relations Department works hard at eradicating discrimination in our great city. It gives me fulfillment when my department finds relief for a person or family that has been discriminated against or when a small and emerging business earns a contract with the city that will grow their business and provide income for our community. I love speaking with Mayor Stothert to develop and execute plans that will improve Omaha. I also find joy in being asked to go into schools and extra curricular activities to mentor adults about how to better or re-invent themselves and the youth about making their dreams come true.
What did your journey to where you are currently look like?
My Journey is ever evolving and growing. Where I am today is only a rest stop on my journey to impacting the world. I grew up right here in Omaha, NE. I grew attached to this community through sports. I played basketball and football for the North Omaha B.E.A.R.S and ran track for the North Omaha Striders. My mother always pushed me towards excellence. I knew that if I did not earn a college scholarship that college would not have been a realistic goal for me so she encouraged me to be the best. I earned a basketball scholarship that paid for my undergraduate education. Post undergraduate school I fell on my face a lot, but I kept falling forward through the Grace and Mercy of Jesus Christ. I was homeless at one point, I've had encounters with law enforcement, I've had failed relationships, but I kept ongoing.
GMK: I hope the citizens of Omaha feel comfortable that I am the right person for this position. I want to close the gap between civic and community engagement. It is my hope that EVERYONE in Omaha feels comfortable around government officials. I plan to do this by continuing to host civic initiatives in the community as well as city hall. I want people to know that when you file a charge of discrimination against your employer, housing provider, or any entity that obstructs your right to engage in the amenities provided to others - that I will be in this office ensuring that justice will prevail.
Can you name a highlight of your career?
I am here continuing to strive to be better than I was yesterday, but I honestly do not think I have reached a highlight of my career. One of my goals is to be a conduit that helps people achieve their goals spiritually and financially regardless of the the color of their skin, gender or sexual orientation.
Anything you’d go back and change?
I have encountered many speed bumps along the journey of my life to this point and I do not foresee the road getting any smoother. I am trying to get better at embracing the hard times because they have always made me better in the end. I would not go back and change anything about my life to this point.....
on second thought, yes I would. I would have worked just a little bit harder high school. I would have stayed in the gym a couple of hours longer. Trusted myself and the process of my coaches and those around me more than I did. I would have loved to have had a long career in the NBA. I am not mad at where I am at in life right now, but I think I could have gave a little bit more. That's okay because I know better now, I wake up everyday and try and work harder. My bad days have shaped me to who I have become today. I know I have done more good than bad, more right than wrong, but I always want to do more, help more people, experience more of what this world has to offer.
"never become complacent."
Never be satisfied with where you are at because you can always be of more service to others.