Ken Alex is a Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and the Director of the Office of Planning and Research, focusing on energy, environment, and land use issues. As California moves towards a population of 50 million in a climate change constrained world, Ken and OPR work on issues and policies that protect and promote the State's environment and economy. Before joining the Governor's Office, Ken was the Senior Assistant Attorney General heading the environment section of the California Attorney General's Office, and the co-head of the Office's global warming unit. From 2000 to 2006, Ken led the California Attorney General's energy task force, investigating price and supply issues related to California's energy crisis. During his tenure at the Attorney General's Office, Ken negotiated dozens of significant settlements, including agreements with San Bernardino County and ConocoPhillips for the first required reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
California Lawyer named Ken an "Attorney of the Year" in 2004 for his work in energy law, and he received the ABA award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy in 2007 for global warming work. He has taught courses on environmental law and policy at Stanford, Hastings, and Golden Gate University.
Ken is a graduate of Harvard Law School and holds a B.A. in political theory from the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Robert Fisher, 54, of San Francisco, has been appointed to the Strategic Growth Council. He and his family have owned Mendocino Redwood Company since 1998 and he has also worked as the director of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort since 2002. He worked for Gap, Incorporated from 1980 to 1999 and has served as director since 1990. Fisher served as interim chief executive officer in 2007, chairman of the board of directors from 2004 to 2007 and president of Gap Brand from 1997 to 1999. At Gap, Incorporated, Fisher was also the chief operating officer from 1995 to 1997, chief financial officer from 1993 to 1995, executive vice president from 1992 to 1993 and president of Banana Republic from 1989 to 1992. He is a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and serves as vice chairman of the NRDC Board of Trustees. Fisher also serves as chairman of the Conservation International Executive Committee. This position does not require Senate confirmation and there is no salary. Fisher is a Democrat.
In February 2018, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Brian Annis as Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency where he has served as acting secretary since 2018 and was undersecretary from 2013 to 2018. Prior to this appointment, Brian served as Deputy Secretary for Transportation at the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. Brian served in various positions for the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, including deputy staff director, principal consultant and consultant. He also served in various positions at the California Department of Finance, including principal program budget analyst, staff finance budget analyst and research analyst. Brian has also been an adjunct professor of economics at American River College and an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor.
Brian holds a bachelor’s degree in political economy of natural resources from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Washington.
Michael Flad was selected as the City Manager of the City of South Gate in October of 2012. He currently provides leadership and direction for a community of over 102,000 residents through the efforts of over 400 employees and a budget of $115 million dollars. Mr. Flad began his career in Public Administration with the City of Burbank in 1988 working in a variety of positions for the Finance, Risk Management, Community Development, City Manager’s Office and Parks, Recreation and Community Services (PR&CS) departments.The majority of Mr. Flad’s professional career has been with the City of Burbank where he served for over 23 years. During that time, he was lured away from his home town briefly, to accept the number two post, as Assistant City Manager with the City of Ukiah, in Northern California. Actively involved in the communities he has served, Mr. Flad has been appointed to nearly two dozen committees and boards, including the Workforce Investment Board, the School District Partnership Advisory Committee, Traffic and Transportation Committee and various YMCA, and Boys and Girls Club advisory committees. Mr. Flad is also a member of the Rotary International Club of South Gate.
Over the years, his efforts have been recognized by various organizations and have earned him several honors including the League of California Cities Helen Putnam Award, the CSUN Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Boys and Girls Club Liz Shapiro Golden Achievement Award, the CPRS Community Service Award, Burbank Temporary Aid Center “Top Award for Citizenship,” Employee of the Year from Elk’s Lodge #1497, the Mary Alice O’Conner Vision Award from the Family Service Agency, and the Providence Pioneer Award.
Michael Flad is a graduate of UCLA, with a degree in Political Science. He also holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from California State University Northridge.
John Laird was appointed California Secretary for Natural Resources by Governor Jerry Brown on Jan. 5, 2011. He has spent 35 years in public service, including 23 years as an elected official.The son of teachers and raised in Vallejo, Laird graduated with honors in politics from the University of California Santa Cruz in 1972. He then served on the district staff of U.S. Representative Jerome Waldie, and as a budget analyst for the Santa Cruz County Administrator.In 1981, Laird was elected to the Santa Cruz City Council, and served nine years until term limits ended his council service in 1990. He was a two-term mayor from 1983 to 1984 and from 1987 to 1988. During his local government service, he served as a board member for local transit, transportation, water planning, and regional government agencies. Laird was the executive director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project from 1991 to 1994 and an elected member of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2002.
In 2002, Laird was elected to represent the 27th Assembly District in the California Assembly, which includes portions of Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara Counties. He was re-elected in 2004 and again in 2006, when he received more than 70 percent of the vote. At the beginning of his second term, Laird joined the Assembly leadership team when Assembly Speaker Fabian NÃºÃ±ez named him chair of the Budget Committee, a position to which he was reappointed by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass in 2008.While serving the maximum three terms in the Assembly, Laird authored 82 bills that were signed into law. These bills established the landmark Sierra Nevada Conservancy, restored community college health services, expanded and clarified state civil rights protections, reformed the state mandates system, and significantly expanded water conservation.Laird was a member of the State Integrated Waste Management Board from 2008 to 2009. Most recently, he taught state environmental policy at University of California Santa Cruz.
Manuel was appointed to the Strategic Growth Council by the Senate in January of 2015. He is a Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Dr. Pastor also directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC and co-directs the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. In addition to being a renowned academic and thought-leader, he speaks frequently and has contributed opinion pieces to the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere. His research and areas of interest have mostly centered around the issues surrounding the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities and the social movements seeking to change those realities. Manuel’s work has, no doubt, been influenced and shaped by his own upbringing in working class communities throughout Southern California. Despite being neither encouraged nor expected to go to college – a situation typical for low-income students when he was growing up – he went on to double major in Economics and English Literature/Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This was followed by an MA and PhD in Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and academic positions at Occidental College and UC Santa Cruz before coming to USC.
He has authored several books and his latest, “Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions” discusses the link between equity and smart growth and the potential to focus revitalization in all neighborhoods so that residents may have access to safe parks, safe spaces, and good schools. For Manuel’s full biography please visit: Manuel’s Bio.
Alexis Podesta was appointed Secretary at the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency in February 2017, where she has served as undersecretary since 2015. Secretary Podesta oversees departments charged with funding affordable housing, civil rights enforcement, banking and financial transactions, consumer protection, and the licensing of three-million working professionals. Prior to coming to the Agency, Secretary Podesta served as the Director of External and International Affairs for the office of Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown. As Director of External & International Affairs she led outreach, communication and partnerships with stakeholder groups, as well as provided key support for the Governor’s special projects. Additionally, Secretary Podesta was the lead on international affairs and served as the Chief of Protocol.
Prior to joining the Brown Administration she worked for Pacific Gas & Electric in Sacramento as the Special Assistant to Senior Vice President Nancy McFadden. Before joining PG&E, Secretary Podesta spent nearly a decade in Washington, DC, working first as the Director of Scheduling for US Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, and then as the Manager of Government Relations for The Walt Disney Company. Secretary Podesta has a Bachelor’s Degree from George Washington University.
Matt Rodriguez was appointed California Secretary for Environmental Protection by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in July 2011. As Secretary, Matt oversees the activities of the California Air Resources Board, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the State Water Resources Control Board. As a member of the Governor's cabinet, he advises the Governor on environmental policy.He comes to the Agency with more than 24 years of environmental experience with the California Department of Justice where he served as a Deputy Attorney General from 1987 to 1999. In this capacity, he advised or represented the Attorney General and clients of the Land Law Section of the Attorney General's Office. His clients included the California Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. In 1999, he was appointed Senior Assistant Attorney General for the Land Law Section by Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
Former Attorney General Brown selected Matt to be the Chief Assistant Attorney General for the Public Rights Division in 2008. In this capacity he supervised the work of the Land Law, Environment Law, Natural Resources Law, Consumer Law, Civil Rights Enforcement, Antitrust and Corporate Fraud Sections of the Office, among others. Under his supervision, the Attorney General's Office worked to enforce hazardous waste disposal laws and regulations protecting groundwater from leaking underground storage tanks. He also worked collaboratively with the attorneys in the Environment Section to represent OEHHA in cases brought under Proposition 65. He was responsible for the legal team that defended California's vehicular greenhouse gas rules against challenges from the auto industry. Most recently, he served as Acting Chief Deputy Attorney General for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.Prior to joining the California Department of Justice, Matt was Deputy City Attorney for the City of Hayward from 1985 to 1987, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Livermore from 1983 to 1985, an associate program analyst for the Governor's Office of Planning and Research from 1981 to 1983, and a graduate student assistant with the California Coastal Commission from 1979 to 1981.
In addition to numerous speaking engagements, he has taught classes on environmental law and resources management for graduate students in regional and environmental planning at U.C. Berkeley.Matt graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in History, and received his JD from Hasting College of the Law in 1980.
Karen Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 12, 2011 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Secretary Ross has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Before her time at the United States Department of Agriculture, Secretary Ross served more than thirteen years as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG), based in Sacramento. During that same period she served as the Executive Director of Winegrape Growers of America, a coalition of state winegrower organizations, and as Executive Director of the California Wine Grape Growers Foundation, which sponsors scholarships for the children of vineyard employees. Among Secretary Ross' many achievements at CAWG was the creation of the nationally-recognized Sustainable Winegrowing Program, which assists wine grape growers in maintaining the long-term viability of agricultural lands and encourages them to provide leadership in protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and enhancing their local communities.
Wilkening was appointed Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018. He leads the 12 state departments within the Agency including over 30,000 employees with an annual budget of approximately $150 billion.
Wilkening started his state career in 1995 as a fiscal and policy analyst for the Health and Human Services Unit at the California Department of Finance before he was appointed Undersecretary of the Health and Human Services Agency in 2008.
As Undersecretary, Wilkening oversaw policy development and implementation, along with the operation of the Agency. Some of the areas he focused on in this role included streamlining government, improving operational efficiency, expanding healthcare coverage, integrating health, behavioral health and social services to promote whole-person care, and improving the delivery of services for people with developmental disabilities.
Wilkening has led efforts to improve how government operates, to better utilize data to improve the delivery of services to clients, and to make programs more client-centered by fostering stronger partnerships across government, academics and the non-profit sector. Under his leadership, CHHS became the first California Agency to establish an Open Data Portal—changing how state agencies interact with the public. Wilkening led a new agile procurement process of the Child Welfare System that has become a model for other state departments. He created an Agency Governance Council and Office of Innovation to accelerate the adoption of alternative ways of solving governmental problems and to foster Agency-wide buy-in to these efforts.
While Undersecretary, he has served as Acting Director of the Department of Public Health, the Department of Developmental Services, and the Department of Child Support Services. In 2018, he was an inaugural winner of the Cliff Allenby award for excellence in public service. He is a frequent speaker at national health care, innovation and technology conferences.
Wilkening received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of California, Davis.