Carl Green Jr.
Director, Civil Rights Division
Army Veteran and Active Guardsman in the Colorado Air National Guard
Born in the Philippines, Carl Green Jr. grew up in a remote Alaska town with one full-blown stoplight. Today, Green is director of the Civil Rights Division for RTD, one of the largest public transportation systems in the country.
The career climb from a “very wayward” junior high school student in Kodiak to civic leader in Denver, Green said, is a direct result of being raised by a Filipino mother with a strong work ethic and the “new leaf” he turned over when he went into the military.
Green was the youngest of four children. His parents divorced when he was a child, and Green’s mother, with at the time limited English skills, raised the family in Washington state. His father wasn’t in the picture growing up, as he was often deployed while serving in the U.S. Navy. The children stayed with friends or relatives while she worked multiple jobs or cleaned houses before landing a job on a fish processing boat in Alaska.
After high school – he was the only one of his siblings to graduate – Green studied in community college, but after one semester his money ran out. He returned home, as he put it, “with my tail between my legs.” Green didn’t know what his options were and he wasn’t sure he wanted to serve in the military, but it was a “means to an end.” He instantly thought he’d made a huge mistake.
“I was 19,” Green said. “I remember thinking, what did I do? Why did I sign up? What did I get myself into?”
Green soon realized, however, what it meant to be part of something bigger, “to have that common sense of purpose and the opportunity to serve your country. … Being part of something really changed my life. And learning and integrating those Army core values, that's what set my trajectory.”
In Green’s case, the trajectory was up.
Green served two years of active duty in the U.S. Army and then committed to the Army National Guard. The military service led to college tuition, first to the University of Alaska in Anchorage and then Southern Oregon University (SOU), where Green competed on the SOU wrestling team. Green notes that a lesson learned from wrestling in high school and college is to leave it all out on the mat.
“What that translated for me was to give it everything you’ve got,” he said. “You may not have a second opportunity. And that translates directly to life.”
During college, Green was selected for the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program, a federal grant for disadvantaged students with strong academic potential. The financial support put graduate school within reach. Green pursued and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oregon. He also re-enlisted with the Oregon Air National Guard, focusing on those core values again – integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that we do – with added zeal, compassion and enthusiasm.
Green transferred from the 173rd Fighter Wing at Oregon’s Kingsley Air Force Base to the 142nd Air Wing in Portland. There, he found a new source of satisfaction, working as a Special Emphasis Program Manager and Equal Opportunity Program Manager, as well as serving on the Oregon Military Department’s Joint Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Executive Council.
“That really was the spark and what introduced me to civil rights and social justice work,” Green said. “Prior to that, it was more so on a conceptual level of reading about it, writing academic research papers, participating in workshops and so forth. But I was able to put it into action and see the impact that it could have on my fellow airmen.”
Green moved up in the Air National Guard – from Senior Airman to Master Sergeant to First Sergeant. Currently, Green serves in the Colorado Guard as the Equal Opportunity Superintendent. He also spent two years as an operations analyst for the Bonneville Power Administration before moving into public transportation with Portland-based TriMet. Again, he worked as an operations and data analyst before becoming the agency’s Senior Administrator of Title VI and Equity Programs. Recruited by RTD, Green moved to Denver in 2021 and worked as Transit Equity Manager before becoming Interim Director of the Civil Rights division in the summer of 2022. He was named permanent director in December.
Green views his side-by-side military and civilian work career, however, as not about him. “It’s not about me crossing the finish line,” Green said. “It’s whether I’m ensuring that the people to my left and to my right are able to do it with me.” A common denominator for Green is ensuring that people are thriving and working toward collective liberation.
Green is passionate about going beyond compliance to “move the needle” on expanding equal employment opportunities, ensuring small and disadvantaged businesses have equal access to RTD contracting opportunities, improving accessibility for people with disabilities, providing equitable access to RTD services and programs, and ensuring that the agency is free of discrimination in all its forms with employees, customers and the community at large.
To Green, public transportation is itself a connector of communities and people, which is a positive force in building a livable city.
In many ways, he says, serving RTD is no different than serving your country.
“Being something bigger than yourself – that's RTD,” Green said. “If you’re wanting to be part of a team, if you're wanting to contribute and make a positive impact in your community, you can do that here at RTD.”