1. Nancy McFadden
Nancy McFadden, chief of staff to the governor, is at the top of this year’s list, and here’s why: She shapes every major political and policy issue that emerges from the administration and manages the staff to get it done. Whether it’s extending the state’s cap-and-trade program or pushing for new revenue to overhaul the state’s crumbling infrastructure – the two biggest issues of the year for the Brown administration — McFadden was at ground zero when the deals were cut. Indeed, she seems to be everywhere when negotiations reach critical mass, and nothing happens unless McFadden signs off on it. McFadden works out of the “horseshoe” – the suite of offices inside the Capitol housing key administration officials – so she has a relatively low public profile. Even among reporters and others who follow state politics and the Capitol, McFadden is largely invisible and rarely quoted. She also doesn’t return phone calls and emails – at least to us. But her presence is felt throughout the government, in both policy and personnel, and her fingerprints are everywhere. McFadden has been in and out of state and federal government over the years, and came to the Brown administration after a strategy stint as senior VP at PG&E. She later brought some former PG&E colleagues into the horseshoe, and they rose to major positions as well. She was a senior adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis, and before that she was deputy chief of staff to Al Gore. McFadden also served as general counsel to the U.S. Department of Transportation in the Clinton Administration. Her blend of policy and politics experience is pure gold in government, where every major decision is part politics, part policy and part communications spin.
Updated August 29, 2017