Carl Rist spent his childhood years in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, where his German-born father was a pioneer in the computer industry and his Floridian mother was an activist with the League of Women Voters. Under his mother’s wing, he took part in all kinds of political activities, including a memorable rally at a Ft. Lauderdale mall, where then-Governor Reuben Askew was rallying support for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. He didn’t know it at the time, but Carl would return to these themes and spend an almost 30-year professional career dedicated to economic justice and tax fairness.


As a young adult, motivated by church social justice teachings, Carl and his wife, Lisa, volunteered for a year with Habitat for Humanity in the Yakima Valley, building affordable housing for immigrant farm workers. After building six homes that year, the waiting list for Habitat was still hundreds long. It was that reality that inspired Carl to study public policy and explore how to address needs at a much larger scale.  

Carl with his family.


Carl and Lisa moved to Durham where Carl studied public policy at Duke University. They were drawn to Durham’s blue-collar identity, the dynamic multi-racial community, and the small-town feel. When many of Carl’s classmates left for big cities, he and Lisa chose to stay in the Bull City. For more than 30 years, Durham has been their beloved home, where they raised two sons, coached YMCA basketball, worship together, still volunteer with Habitat, and where Carl spent almost 30 years working remotely for a DC-based think-tank, with a focus on building household wealth and broadly shared economic prosperity.


Durham’s an amazing place - it’s on top of most lists for its dynamic economy and attractive quality of life. But the reality for families in Durham is a growing gap across race and class lines. What’s needed isn’t low taxes and cash giveaways to big corporations. Rather, to build an economy that works for all, Durham needs to promote living wage jobs and invest in broad-based wealth-building so that more families can own homes, start small businesses, and see their kids go to college.

Carl attending a rally.