Why Washington, DC, Is “One of the Best Places to Live in the World”: An Interview with Tommy Wells, Director of the District Department of the Environment

  • Christine Mellen
Keywords: Washington, DC, District of Columbia, urban policy, social services, environmental policy, public administration, energy efficiency, streetcar system, interview


Tommy Wells is the director of the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). He first came to the District in 1983 after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota. Wells focused on child welfare issues for over two decades, first at the city’s child protective services agency and then as director of the Consortium for Child Welfare, a coalition of nonprofit organizations advocating for children, youth, and families in the District. During that time he attended law school at night, receiving his degree from the Catholic University of America in 1991.

Wells first held elected office in 1995, as a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Ward 6. Following a stint on the DC State Board of Education, he ran for city council, where he represented Ward 6 for eight years. During his time on the council, Wells sat on the committees responsible for legislation affecting the environment, health, human services, and transportation. In 2014, he ran in the Democratic primary for mayor, finishing third to current mayor Muriel Bowser and then-mayor Vincent Gray.

On March 18, Wells spoke with Christine Mellen of Policy Perspectives at his office. Their conversation touched on topics such as the District’s disposable bag fee, energy and the environment, and the District’s streetcar system.

Author Biography

Christine Mellen
Christine Mellen is a second-year Master of Public Policy candidate at the George Washington University concentrating in social policy. She was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and remains a Southerner at heart. Christine graduated from Haverford College in 2006 with majors in political science and German studies. While there she wrote a thesis about the impact of German division on political cultures in East and West Germany. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Christine worked as a paralegal for a small law firm in DC, focusing primarily on regulatory matters in the areas of transportation and competition. She loves Wonderland trivia, concerts, word games, Capital Bikeshare, experimenting in the kitchen, reading just about anything, and UofL basketball.