Hart Hodges is the Director of Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research and the Vice President of Waycross Investment Management. Hart received his Ph.D. in economics from University of Washington, and his Masters in environmental management from Duke University. He spends much of his time researching health economics, local economic development, and natural resource and environmental economics.
How would you describe what you do?
I juggle. I’m part-time at Western—I still teach and run business research. It gets a little crazy because what was a job that was 50 percent teaching and 50 percent administrative gets nutty when you go to halftime.
I also work at Waycross Investment Management. I’m a registered investment advisor there. It works in part because some of what I have to do at Western, grading, class prep; I can do at night or on my own time. It’s a 50 percent job with a lot of autonomy. It lets me juggle another job.
What brought you to Bellingham?
I’m going to blame my wife. We were in Alaska, but thought we should look at jobs here. We decided we wanted to start having kids, and didn’t necessarily want to anchor ourselves there for decades. We both ended up with offers here, and came. That was 15 years ago.
What is your favorite spot to relax in Bellingham?
Home. Is that a fair answer?
That’s fair. If you couldn’t be home, is there someplace you like?
I have to put a plug in for Waycross. The best place to be in the city is my work.
What do you think of Western?
Students that do well at Western do very well in terms of grad placement. There’s some very good faculty there. That makes it a lot of fun.
In a perfect Bellingham weekend, what would you be doing?
I’d play a few sets of tennis, then either bike or run. I’d exercise, eat well, and be with friends. I’d also leave time for something new or spontaneous—good weekends often include surprises.
We just moved from the Columbia neighborhood into Edgemoor, and for the longest time, our weekends would involve home renovation—but not anymore. We’re doing some yard work now.
Is it good to be through home renovations?
It’s good. We’ve renovated about seven houses. I’m having fun outside working with rocks and plants now.
What do you love best about your job?
The people. In both jobs I have the luxury of working with really good people—both students or clients, and co-workers.
What do people not understand about what you do?
On the Waycross side, people have all sorts of odd perceptions about the financial industry. A lot of the value added is helping sort through complex problems—they can be intergenerational with family trusts, or on the planning side. We get fixated on how our portfolio did today relative to the stock market, but that’s such a small part of the business.
There’s a lot of reasons that this industry has a black eye; there’s a lot of selfish behavior. I don’t think people understand what a fiduciary is, and that we have the ability to help someone with good decisions that pay off year-after-year-after-year in retirement.
As far as teaching, people don’t understand the time that goes into teaching well. Anything from writing a good test to being there for kids after class, it’s an emotional investment and it takes time that a lot of people don’t see.
Is there something new you’d like to see in Bellingham?
I’m going to sound very un-Bellingham-ish, but I’m looking forward to when Bellingham is bigger. When there are multiple tech companies based here, I think Bellingham will have more of an energy.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I’d have to go with All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
However, I recently went to Village Books and got Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff; it was recommended by a woman older than me—I got ten pages in, and was like, “Oh My Gosh…. this is like my mother recommending 50 Shades of Grey!”
Is there a Bellingham restaurant or brewery the world needs to know about?
Pure Bliss. I’ll go with that.
Do you have a favorite downtown spot?
I don’t have one favorite, I love that we have a number of good, growing options. I love that we don’t have to just say Boundary Bay Brewery anymore.
One of my favorite hidden gems is the little sushi place in the Public Market.
What are people always surprised to know about you?
Probably that I broke the family chain.
My grandfather was the Secretary of Commerce, and my dad was Secretary of Commerce. But it doesn’t seem likely anyone will call me up to follow in their footsteps.
If you had to enroll at Western today, what would you major in?
I would add Chemistry or Spanish to what I’ve already studied.
There’s a bit of a gap in environmental science and policy, where we seem to know the science or understand the economics, but not both. I would like to know the science much better than I do.
I say Spanish, but really any language. I’m bad at languages but want to be multi-lingual.
Do you have a special charity or local cause you want to call out?
Lots. The safe thing to do is call out the last auction I went to—DVSAS. ‘Tis the season of auctions.