In his LinkedIn profile, former California Forward (CA FWD) president and CEO Jim Mayer describes himself as a farmer, teacher and consultant — which for those who know him is a characteristic understatement.
What isn’t mentioned is earlier this year, Mayer received the National Public Service Award — one of the most prestigious professional awards in the country for his long public service in California. Established in 1983 by the American Society for Public Administration and the National Academy of Public Administration, the award honors leaders who have made outstanding contributions to public service and whose accomplishments are models of excellence for those dedicated to the public good.
Mayer spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter in California, including a remarkable eight-year stint at the Sacramento Bee. He worked at the Little Hoover Commission, which is California’s independent state oversight agency, for 12 years, including eight years as its executive director. He took over CA FWD at its inception in 2007.
For those who have worked with Jim, particularly during those years at CA FWD, the award is richly and well deserved.
“We created California Forward with the idea of tackling the really tough issues facing our state. To navigate those, at times, rocky shoals in Sacramento and elsewhere took a patient leader with a steady hand. Jim was integral to our success,” said Lenny Mendonca, long-time CA FWD Leadership Council member. “Jim utterly deserves this public service honor. California is lucky to have had him at an important time in our history.”
Mayer’s patience and ability to build a government reform organization came at a time when California needed to look at itself.
“When Jim started California Forward it was an idea — a reform group that could help make California more governable. His intelligence, thoughtfulness and persistence led to many important reforms that had previously been resisted by the legislature,” said Pete Weber, another long-time CA FWD Leadership Council member. “He then used his extraordinary steward leadership skills to focus the organization on the most challenging issue facing California: restoration of the California Dream.”
For Micah Weinberg, the current CA FWD CEO who succeeded Mayer in 2019, Mayer left an organization that is promoting polices that can help all Californians achieve their California Dream by ensuring the government and the economy work for everyone through a collaborative, inclusive, regional approach to solutions with accountability.
“We congratulate Jim on his public service award. His work at California Forward has helped the organization be viewed as a place where new and good ideas can flourish and find their way toward adoption and implementation,” said Weinberg. “Our work to ensure California’s government and economy work for all Californians is accelerating thanks in part to the solid foundation that Jim’s leadership provided.”
Mayer will tell you he’s enjoying retirement but don’t be fooled. He doesn’t exactly have his feet up.
The Mayer family has a 20-acre farm and olive oil company near Woodland, California and he is an adjunct professor for Systems Change and Societal Capacity at the University of Pacific McGeorge Law School. And he continues to help us at CA FWD in his role as President Emeritus and Senior Fellow.