James Hardy joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2021, bringing his extensive experience in city-wide economic and community development to his work supporting RWJF’s efforts in building healthy, equitable communities. He views his role as an opportunity to work with small and mid-sized cities, across the country, in promoting economic development as a key driver of health outcomes. And he praises RWJF for setting the “gold standard for public health practice and policy and for its role in building a Culture of Health through community and equitable development.”
Previously, Hardy served as the deputy mayor for integrated development in Akron, Ohio, where he merged economic and community development efforts in the city. Earlier he served as chief of staff to Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and assistant director of community health at Summit County Public Health. There he led the Health Equity and Social Determinants Unit, managing a diverse portfolio of community-based programs and public health services. Prior to that, he was a special assistant in the office of the president and board of trustees of Kent State University. He also served as a regional director for Ohio secretary of state Jennifer Brunner, and as an Executive Office intern for former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Hardy holds a BA in Political Science-Criminal Justice from the University of Akron, and a Master of Public Health from Kent State University with a concentration in health policy and management. From 2020-2021, he was a Fulcrum Fellow with the Center for Community Investment at the Lincoln Land Policy Institute, which works to overcome disinvestment and improve opportunity so that everyone has a fair chance to lead a healthy and productive life. He credits his late mother, a former teacher and high school principal, for inspiring him to always strive for the best in his educational pursuits and service to his state and community.
Hardy currently resides in Akron with his wife, a registered nurse, and their two children. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching his children’s baseball and softball teams; running, hiking, and outdoor activities; preparing his favorite Mexican dishes; and “listening to all genres of music, but especially hard rock and jazz.”