Walter L. Fields, Jr. is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com and principal of Fields Communications, a public affairs company. He has previously served as Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Community Service Society of New York, and Publisher of City Limits Magazine. Prior to establishing NorthStar News, he served as the Director of Public Affairs for the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and was the Senior Government Policy Analyst for the Community Service Society of New York. Walter has also served as an adjunct professor in political science at Montclair State University and a visiting lecturer in public policy at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan.
Walter's career in public service began early in his youth. As a constant presence at City Council meetings in his city when he was just 12, he was an advocate for children and youth. His activism caught the attention of Mayor Kazmier Wysocki who appointed Walter to the city's Youth Guidance Council overseeing the city's youth programs at age 13. He was guided by two mentors, City Clerk Doris Dukes and local community advocate Sissy Braithwaite, and the two women tutored him on the workings of municipal government. The appointment made Walter the youngest appointee to a board in the city's history. He would later be recognized by the Knights of Columbus and the Bergen County Council of Churches for his activism and citizenship. As a high school student during the city's Youth Month, Walter was chosen as the Student-Mayor. Walter also gained significant experience as a youth active in his church, Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, the oldest Black congregation in his hometown. During his youth and young adult years he received spiritual guidance under the late Revs. George Lincoln Blackwell, Mack Brandon, James David Armstrong and Andrew Mackey, and Bishop Enoch Rochester. The AME Zion Church played a formidable role in Walter's early training.
During his college years at Morgan State University, Mr. Fields was a campus leader and an active member in the university branch of the NAACP. He was a member of Promethean Kappa Tau Freshman-Sophomore Honor Society, Sophomore Class Vice President and the founder of an independent fraternity, Omega Phi Omega Fraternity, Inc. He contributed opinion articles to the editorial page of the Baltimore Afro-American and was the spokesperson for the student government association during a period of campus unrest. During his senior year he interned for the Honorable William H. 'Billy" Murphy in the Baltimore Circuit Court. Mr. Fields earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
As a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, was chairperson of the Wagner School African American Student Caucus. In that role he convened a national summit at NYU of Black public policy graduate students. In recognition of his leadership at NYU he received a Chancellor’s Service Award and an Office of African American Student Services Award. Due to Mr. Fields’ efforts to promote diversity at the graduate school, the dean appointed him to the Faculty Search Committee, resulting in the appointment of the first full-time African-American and full-time Latina faculty members in the school’s history. His academic achievements at NYU culminated with the distinction of being the Marshal for the Wagner School’s graduating class during the 1990 commencement. It was the first class to graduate under the “Wagner” name, the school having formerly been the NYU Graduate School of Public Administration. Mr. Fields subsequently earned a Master of Public Administration degree from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and received the Dean’s Award. He also holds a professional certificate in not-for-profit management from NYU. He received a National Science Foundation fellowship in the doctoral program in Political Science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) and earned a Master of Arts degree in Political Science with a concentration in American Government. His Master’s thesis focused on Black parental engagement in suburban school districts.
He served for five years as the Political Action Director for the New Jersey State Conference of NAACP Branches and was a member of the executive board. Mr. Fields is also a past Vice President for Programs for the New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute (NJPPRI), a non-partisan not-for-profit think tank dedicated to examining the impact of public policy on the state’s Black community.
Mr. Fields also has significant international experience, having worked on projects in Japan, the United Kingdom and several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, working as a consultant to the United States Agency for International Development (U.S. AID), the International City County Managers Association (ICMA), and National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) and collaborating with the African National Congress (ANC) and Operation Black Vote in London. His work abroad has included advising Japan’s legislature on the creation of the country’s first products liability law and serving as a visiting lecturer in public policy at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo.
Through his professional work Mr. Fields established the New York Reentry Roundtable, a network of advocates focused on the formerly incarcerated, planned the first Reentry Lobby Day in the New York State capital, in 2005 produced a televised New York City mayoral debate over NY1 cable television, developed and hosted a monthly policy forum focused on the working poor on Capitol Hill – Working for Change, planned a presidential candidates forum in 2007 that featured candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and conceived a tax credit for companies to hire young adults – “disconnected youth” – and worked with New York Congressman Charles Rangel to have the tax credit included in the economic recovery legislation signed by President Barack Obama in 2009. The tax credit model has since been adopted on the state level in New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo has credited it with creating 33,000 jobs.
He has also been active in local communities. His past work in his hometown included creating the Tri-City Antiviolence Network, a program focused on violence reduction between young Black males. Fields also convened a county-wide youth leadership summit with sponsorship from major corporations including PSE&G, United Jersey Bank, Toys R Us, and BMW of North America. His planning of the summit led to the creation of a summer jobs program for teenagers that received the support of the Private Industry Council in his native Bergen County. His work on behalf of youth has included sponsoring a summer workshop for Black males and founding the Black Parents Workshop, Inc., a parents’ organization for education advocacy that successfully filed a landmark civil rights lawsuit against the South Orange-Maplewood (NJ) School District. Fields’ advocacy on education issues has included supporting a civil rights complaint against his local district that was filed by the ACLU and the UCLA Civil Rights Project, and for which his daughter was a lead complainant. He has also been a strong supporter of young people in his former community of residence and advocated for the creation of a Black Students Union in the local high school. He was also retained by former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian to create the Atlantic City Youth Council to align with President Barack Obama’s Black male initiative, with the charge of creating a diverse and inclusive representation of the city’s youth. Walter Fields also regularly speaks to youth organizations to encourage their civic engagement and leadership among youth.
Mr. Fields has also had a distinguished career as a journalist. For several years, he wrote a column for The Record, New Jersey’s second most widely read daily newspaper, and The City News, a weekly newspaper serving the state’s African-American community. He was a Contributing Editor for New Jersey Reporter, a public affairs monthly magazine. He was one of the original political contributors on the MSNBC cable news channel and for MSNBC.com. His writings garnered several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Garden State Association of Black Journalists. He also provided commentary for two years on Newark based National Public Radio affiliate, WBGO 88 FM. In addition, Mr. Fields was a contributor to the nationally syndicated “News and Notes” on National Public Radio (NPR). During his tenure at the Community Service Society of New York, he orchestrated the acquisition of City Limits Magazine, an urban affairs monthly magazine and website, and served as its Publisher. The edition of City Limits he conceived that focused on the plight of Black men in New York City won the New York City Deadline Club award for reporting on minority issues. Mr. Fields also provided voice-over for a radio personality in the 2008 documentary Election Day that chronicles 11 stories shot simultaneously on November 2, 2004.
Among the honors he has received in recognition of his work is a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Wagner Graduate School at New York University, a New Jersey Citizens Action Advocacy Award, New Jersey NAACP President’s Award, New Jersey Black Ministers Council Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, New Jersey Senate Proclamation, New Jersey Assembly Proclamation, Bergen County Freeholders Proclamation, key to the city of Dallas, Texas and other awards citing his contributions in the fields of public policy and journalism.
He is a proud member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., one of the 'Divine 9' National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations, serves as the fraternity's National Director of Communications and is a member of Gamma Omicron Omega Alumni Chapter in Baltimore. Walter is also a Trustee of the historic Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church in Baltimore, Maryland and sits on the Board of its Zion Development Corporation. He also serves as the Co-Chairperson for the Advisory Council of Strong Schools Maryland, a statewide education equity advocacy organization. Mr. Fields is the son of the late Mrs. Mattie Fields and the late Walter L. Fields, Sr. He is married to Donna Wharton, a graduate of Williams College and MIT, and they have a daughter, Jordan Marie, an alumna with a degree in Political Science and former student-athlete on the track and field team at the University of Pittsburgh, and formerly on the cabinet of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. Jordan is currently enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College as a dual JD/MS candidate.