Deb Nankivell


“My name is Deborah Nankivell, and my vision for California is a united state of regions, with excellence, prosperity and a high quality of life for everyone.”

Deb Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council, a nonprofit organization comprised of leaders from business, education and civic groups striving to improve the quality of life in Fresno and the Central Valley. She came on board in 1993, when the council was formed. It was a time when crime was rising in Fresno while aspects of the economy were slipping. One of the council's first projects was a partnership with California State University, Fresno to establish the Central Valley Business Incubator and create jobs. Since then, the council's leaders have shouldered initiatives addressing other critical areas, including education, land use and transportation.

Nankivell believes state government can more potently serve people by allowing regions to develop their own strategies. At the same time, collaborations among regions will strengthen the whole of California.

Her intense interest in reform began when she was a young girl growing up in the Midwest. She remembers at the age of 12 being drawn to the concept that “we can change things.” She became a lawyer, practicing in the areas of criminal defense, workers compensation and personal injury. Before moving to California, she was the executive director of Common Cause Minnesota.

Nankivell said that government must provide an “authentic partnership” and needs to embrace “transformational change” through innovation and new approaches. That way, real progress can be achieved to bring stability and renewal to communities and neighborhoods.

But restructuring government also means that Californians must do their part as well, she said. In essence, they must take ownership and responsibility for their state and its future.

“Become informed first. Understand what you can achieve and where you can have the greatest impact. Be the change itself. Grab your oar,” Nankivell said. “Pay attention.”