CHICAGO (AP) — Stan Moore remembers when the U.S. Census count involved punching paper cards for each household. That was just before the 1960 count, when the nation’s population was around 170 million and he was one of the few men of color working for the Census Bureau.
Since those days, Moore has tabulated five population counts with ever-changing technologies, tracked diversifying communities and watched the U.S. population swell to over 300 million.
Now, as the federal agency’s longest-serving employee, Moore is gearing up for his sixth and final tally: the 2010 Census.
“This has been my life,” said the impeccably dressed man who is the bureau’s regional director in Chicago, sitting at his office table covered with color-coded maps.
Working for 11 presidents and being an organizer of the Census for more than five decades has given Moore a front-row seat to history.
His first official assignment came in 1960 when he joined the Census to help program a computer that weighed eight tons and was the size of a one-car garage. He has been at the forefront of helping create a national digital database that maps neighborhoods, and has overseen the implementation of GPS-equipped handheld computers carried by census workers.
Official Census counts, mandated by the Constitution, are used to determine how billions in federal funds are distributed and how congressional districts are drawn.
“If you need good schools, health care or transportation in your community, all that money is based on Census figures,” Moore said. “If you’re not cooperating, another city will have a good living standard where your city won’t.”
Since he became a regional director in 1976, Moore has pushed for a community-first approach.
In his early days, Census workers used phone books to get addresses and then walked streets to verify them.
“We missed a lot of addresses in those days,” he said.
Moore met with post office officials to develop a more efficient process.
Then he met with mayors, clergymen and school leaders, making sure each understood the stakes of not participating in the Census.
Those informal meetings led to what the agency now calls the Complete Count Committee, groups that are crucial to ensuring the operations of the Census — mapping households, confirming addresses, mailing forms and going door-knocking when the forms don’t get mailed back — run smoothly.
“He understands some of the subtleties, the nature of our work and the technical aspects, but he related it to the community in a way I had never had any experience,” said Dwight Dean, the bureau’s regional director in Detroit who has long known Moore. “It was a pioneer way to do PR using community.”
For example, in his three-state region of Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, Moore has pushed for hiring temporary Census workers who work in the neighborhoods where they live. That means neighbors are looking out for neighbors, he says.
Moore also gets ex-pro football players to talk to schools about the importance of the Census and he sends letters to each of the 6,433 mayors in his region.
His work with aldermen and mayors has earned him some recognition. There’s a street — Stanley D. Moore Way — named after him on Chicago’s southwest side.
He has an air of formality, usually dressing in a suit and tie. He is addressed by most, even some friends, as “Mr. Moore.” He has flecks of gray hair, doesn’t drink and refuses to give his age, jokingly insisting that he has worked at the Census bureau “since kindergarten.”
He took an internship with the agency after his high school civics teacher told his class in the early 1950s that African Americans were undercounted in the Census. He said wanted to help other minorities be counted.
Moore, married with four children, has few plans for retirement. He knows he’ll continue to attend his granddaughter’s basketball games, but he’s still focused on the 2010 count.
He has 38 temporary offices to open throughout the region and has hired former Bears players Otis Wilson and Wendall Davis, among others, to go to elementary schools to talk about the Census.
“It’s a wonderful job,” he said.