California Forward (CA FWD) is pleased to announce the addition of two experienced leaders to its staff, with David Nelson becoming executive director of the California Forward Action Fund and Amit Thakkar joining as the vice president of public policy and research for CA FWD.
“We’re excited to welcome both David and Amit to our California Dream Team,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of California Forward. “They bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to elevate our work to bring more people together across interests and geography and move forward policies that create inclusive, sustainable growth and improved government at all levels.”
As executive director of the California Forward Action Fund — the policy advocacy arm of California Forward — David Nelson oversees the efforts of the organization which advocates for policies that create inclusive, sustainable growth and improved government at the state, regional and local levels.
Nelson brings over 20 years of public service experience to the position, starting with work in the State Assembly and most recently, as the director of public policy at the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce (CalAsian).
Prior to that, Nelson was the statewide liaison for the California Small Business Development Centers. In both roles, he actively worked with both organizations, respectively, to position them to be more active and involved with CA FWD’s California Economic Summit and the requisite policy work groups. In 2021, he served as the co-chair of the Small Businesses Owned by People of Color work group for the California Economic Summit.
At CalAsian, Nelson managed the policy portfolio of the organization through the tumultuous times of the COVID pandemic and AAPI hate and wrote two pieces of legislation: AB 915 (Chiu) and AB 2019 (Petrie Norris), both of which were supported by the CFAF and would codify the State’s 25% small business procurement goal.
He also worked closely with the AAPI Legislative Caucus in supporting the “AAPI Equity Budget” in 2021, as well as managed the CalAsian Issues and Candidates PACs.
Over the course of his career, he has served as a Trustee on the Sierra College Joint Community College Board, a Transportation Commissioner for the City of Roseville, the Board of Directors for Los Angeles Business Federation and a member of the UC Davis Health Community Advisory Board.
As CA FWD’s vice president of public policy and research, Thakkar leads the organization’s evidence-based policy agenda to promote issues vital to ensuring the California Dream is accessible to everyone. From housing and climate resiliency, to workforce development and broadband expansion, Thakkar will be working with state leaders and CA FWD’s partners to strategically advance policy priorities that expand equitable opportunities for all Californians.
Prior to joining CA FWD, Thakkar was a political consultant focused on coalition building, large-scale advocacy and political campaigns for a broad range of organizations and candidates. His policy expertise includes community development, environmental protection, green tech, LGBTQ rights, financial regulation, housing and education policy.
In 2016, Thakkar founded the civic tech company, LawMaker, the first civilian lobbying platform that empowered Americans to crowdsource and advocate for new laws from the grassroots up.
Thakkar has extensive experience in the leadership of socially responsible companies and organizations and the cultivation of strategic partnerships to advance the public good. He also speaks regularly at colleges and universities around the country about civic engagement and the power of youth activism and political involvement.
A native Californian, Thakkar started his career as a lobbyist and campaign strategist for Cerrell Associates and was a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He holds an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Pomona College.