9. Catherine Lhamon
Catherine Lhamon is Newsom’s legal affairs secretary, but she also holds a major federal position – chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to which former President Barack Obama appointed her in 2016 to a six-year-term. Legal affairs secretary is a key position in any administration, although the title – like so many in government – is misleading. A more accurate description of Lhamon might be “general counsel.” Lhamon serves the governor as a legal-political adviser, which means she has a broad portfolio and gets into an array of issues, including the judiciary. Lhamon, an Amherst College graduate who got her law degree from Yale, is a former assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Education Department and practiced law at the ACLU in southern California, where she served as assistant legal director. She’s also won a slew of honors from legal and educational and institutions and publications. Through her federal and D.C. connections, Lhamon is probably the best known nationally of all Newsom’s staffers.