Thad grew up in Chapel Hill, NC and became politically active in the 1988 presidential campaign, interning for Democratic Congressman David Price and then volunteering at the Democratic National Convention. After that, he attended Brown University in Providence, RI, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1992 with majors in History and Religious Studies.
Thad worked in Washington, DC for four years as a policy researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies and also attended Union Theological Seminary in New York earning a Master’s of Religion in 1998. He earned his doctorate in political science from Harvard University in 2004. He co-authored a major study of community economic development policy, "Making a Place for Community," which was published by Routledge in 2002. His doctoral dissertation on suburban sprawl was co-winner of a national award for best public policy doctoral thesis.
Thad moved to Richmond in 2005 with his wife to begin teaching in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. In 2011 he was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor of Leadership Studies.
Thad's wife, Adria Scharf, is Executive Director of the Richmond Peace Education Center. Their daughter has attended Maymont Pre-Kindergarten and John B. Cary Elementary School and is now a student at Albert Hill Middle School.
In addition to teaching at the University of Richmond, he is working on two book projects (one focused on Richmond, the second on national strategies to strengthen democracy). Altogether Thad has authored, co-authored, or co-edited six books, and written hundreds of articles for academic and journalistic outlets.
Thad has had extensive involvement in the City of Richmond as a community member and a policy expert over the last decade. He has been a volunteer basketball coach with Richmond Parks and Recreation for Randolph Community Center (go Dragons!), John B. Cary Elementary School, and Humphrey Calder Community Center. For many years he was also a volunteer player and coach with the Richmond Street Soccer program working with adults in recovery.
At the policy level, Thad served on the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission and was lead author of its widely-referenced final report. He then served as co-chair of the Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty which translated the Commission’s recommendations into concrete action steps. Those action steps included creating the Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB), the first municipal office of its kind in the United States, charged with leading a comprehensive wealth building initiative to reduce the city’s poverty rate and improve the lives of thousands of Richmonders. Thad served as the first Director of OCWB from June 2014 to May 2016.
Thad then served as director of the mayoral transition team following the 2016 election and served as a senior policy adviser in the office of Mayor Levar M. Stoney on a part-time basis, from January 2017 to June 2018. In that capacity he led the development and adoption of the RVA Education Compact and worked on improving performance management across all agencies.