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Robert David, youth services and gang violence prevention coordinator for the City of Danville, was recently named among the “Top 100 Influencers in Local Government” in 2022 by the nonprofit Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL).
Described as passionate, caring, and inspiring, David was recognized for his work with the youth of Danville to help connect them with resources and workforce opportunities, and in turn steer them away from crime. His nomination stated, “his work, along with reforms in the police department, have helped to drive reduced violent and gang crime in the city. He is an inspiring speaker, and his work is a great model for other organizations.”
“It’s definitely an honor to be in that group,” David said. “It is a testament to what you can do through connecting and collaborating with people in the community. The influence doesn’t come from me. It comes from being empowering others – those in the community, the staff, and these young people – and let them do what they do best. That’s when change happens.”
He added, “My passion always has been to see others do better. I think that resonates. With everyone I come into contact with, whatever their job is, I want them to do their best. I want to connect with people and motivate them.”
According to the ELGL website, the organization’s vision is to amplify the good in local government, and the mission is to engage the brightest minds in local government. The "Top 100 Influencers in Local Government" list is an annual recognition program celebrating the service and contributions of leaders at all levels of local government. Those considered for the list must be nominated. David said he does not know who nominated him.
David, who also serves as a life and recovery coach and motivational speaker and has been a drug-free Mr. Universe body builder and four-time world champion powerlifter, has more than 25 years of experience working with gang populations.
In June 2018, David joined the City of Danville as the youth services and gang violence prevention coordinator. Four months later, he started the Project Imagine program to create a positive "image" in the youth’s mind so that he or she can "imagine" a life without gangs or crime.
Initially, the program consisted of a nine-week paid work experience and mentoring while on the job with a partnering agency. The focus now is developing and maintaining those relationships as each teen progresses in meeting their goals, such as finishing school and becoming employed. A Project Imagine outreach worker is assigned to mentor each teen in the program for a minimum of one year.
The teens in Project Imagine are chosen from referrals from the police department, courts, schools, and parents.
Project Imagine has received national recognition. In 2020, the National Gang Crime Research Center named David a winner of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award. The award recognizes his accomplishments in gang prevention and intervention.
The program also received the President’s Award from the Virginia Municipal League in October 2019.
David holds master’s degrees in professional counseling and addiction specialist from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. He is certified as a master life coach by Grand Canyon University. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.
He has authored a book for teens and young adults to help recover from lifestyle setbacks. "Stand up and Breathe, 4 Steps to Recover From Failure" provides a simple, but strategic process for youth to move forward from past mistakes.
Also, David and Danville Police Chief Scott Booth co-authored “Bigger Than Black And Blue: Candid conversations about race, equity and community collaborations.”