Former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin announced Friday that she will be assisting the transition team of incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of a statewide advisory board.
Newsom “is interested in a people-powered transition, so there will be a network across the state to get input,” Swearengin said. “I was happy to help. We need more voices from the Central Valley.”
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Swearengin, who is president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, said she was contacted a few days ago by Newsom’s newly minted chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, who was previously a top adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The new advisory board includes Democratic politicians from across the state, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and progressive billionaire Tom Steyer. Swearengin is the only representative from the central San Joaquin Valley and appears to be one of only two Republicans.
The group will report regularly to O’Leary and Newsom’s transition team, providing input from their local communities as Newsom builds a policy base. Swearengin said the group will first call in on Tuesday.
Community events are also a possibility in the future, Swearengin said. She added that she hopes to see the future governor visit the Valley soon.
Swearengin said her top priority in these conversations will be advocating for better education funding in the Valley.
“We are the youngest region in California,” she said. “We will raise up the skilled and educated workforce needed to build the state’s economy, and yet we are woefully underfunded at the community college and four-year levels.”
Swearengin said the problem of underfunded schools and universities is also at the top of Newsom’s mind.
“I’m not going to have to convince anyone, but I want to do my part to help make sure the issue is raised early on and we mobilize,” she said.