Curtis has been a teacher, a college president, head of a public affairs research organization, policy adviser and chief of staff to a governor, and chairman of a regional government. He was formerly Managing Associate of Education Evolving, a network of policy design analysts and activists based in Saint Paul. His most recent role was as publisher of Citiscope, an online global news service focused on cities. Other service includes: serving as the former executive director of The Citizens League and past chairman of the Metropolitan Council. He is the author or co-author of four books.