You manage a public affairs team of 14 people at a time of serious climate challenges, especially in California. What advice do you have for leaders in a similar position?
I have a talented and capable team, and they help me stay current in my own thinking. So it isn’t just a matter of me leading them; they help me and push me to keep growing. Something I love about my job is that I truly learn something new every day, which I tell younger professionals is so valuable. The best advice I have to offer is to remain constantly curious. Find a position where continuous learning is central to the job. I’m fortunate in that I have such a position.
You’re learning about what, exactly?
We’re committed as a company to creating a clean energy future, and much of what we do is to advance that goal. That requires a sharp focus for our team, and we’re dedicated to do everything that we possibly can to help advance that mission.
You’re a graduate of the Public Affairs Institute. Please share that experience.
It was extremely beneficial and yet another way to advance my professional development — to spend time with impressive peers I might not otherwise have gotten to know. The Institute is a three-year commitment, and you really do get to know the other participants in your cohort — not just learning from the presenters, although they are impressive in their own right. The Institute class that I was part of realized we had a serious commitment to bringing more diversity to the public affairs profession. That’s why on our own we decided to make personal contributions to the Foundation for Public Affairs’ Hogans Fellowship program. We wanted our class to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to advancing diversity and opportunity in our profession.
At Edison, you’ve managed to grow PAC revenues by about 50% over the past decade. How did you do it?
We decided to be as intentional about seeking to align our PAC giving to our values and key policy areas, and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol made us even more serious about that. We wanted to anchor our engagement to our values, and we believe being ultra-transparent and accountable has led to greater engagement by our eligible employees. Clarity of purpose is magnetic, and I attribute this growth in our PAC revenues to this renewed determination to be clear and accountable and rooted in our values. In 2022, we raised over $300,000 — for the first time in a decade. Our PAC advisory council and C-suite leadership have helped make that happen.
You spent several years in the office of the city manager of Elk Grove, Calif., becoming interim city manager yourself. What did you learn from that experience that other public affairs professionals would benefit from knowing?
That was an incredible experience, and I left the city with considerable reluctance. I loved what we achieved there. Elk Grove was a newly incorporated city in the Sacramento Valley, with a genuine commitment to economic development that depended on entrepreneurialism. In the seven years I was there, the population more than doubled as the pace of development grew from 75,000 to over 150,000. The source of our success, related to our entrepreneurial attitude, was robust community engagement. The involvement of the residents of Elk Grove was significant, and there’s a lesson there. The days of top-down policymaking are behind us, and the management of Elk Grove was a model of how to move away from that approach.
You’re a Californian but went to college in Washington, D.C., and have worked in the nation’s capital. How has that experience affected your professional development?
I was a kid who loved politics. As a high school student, I traveled to Washington, D.C., on a study trip, and it was exciting to see that these places where politics and policy converge actually exist. I remember Martin Frost, a Texas congressman, took us to the House floor and spent an hour talking with our group, and that made a tremendous impression. I was bitten by the bug. Fortunately, I earned an academic scholarship from The George Washington University that made it possible for my family to send me there. During that time, I was an intern on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Sen. Dianne Feinstein took all her interns out to dinner and talked to us about her time as mayor of San Francisco, which I found so impressive that she wanted to speak with us and hear what we had to say as college students.
What actual tasks did you perform as an intern?
The work interns do often isn’t glamorous, but you can quickly learn a lot. I was in the scheduling & advance and legislative affairs offices at the White House in the early days of the Clinton administration, where I helped handle correspondence and occasionally advance events. I was able to learn a lot about a lot of different issues when you’re responding to people’s letters, and senior staff were always generous with their time and taught us a lot. But I always wanted to return and make my home in California, which I did. But I’m grateful for my years in Washington.
It sounds like you’ve found the career that suits you. But do you ever think about what other path you might have taken?
I was always fascinated by aviation, and there was a time when I wanted to be a pilot. I live near John Wayne Airport in Orange County, and I still enjoy watching planes ascending overhead. I like to think that I could have been a capable pilot.
Maybe you could have ended up flying Air Force One.