Amanda Renteria: How to Create Impact in the Public & Private Sectors

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Amanda RenteriaAmanda Renteria has worked for Goldman Sachs, the City of San Jose, and two senators; has been a teacher and coach at her old high school; has run for Congress; held a top position in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; directed operations for the California Department of Justice and this year, ran for Governor of California.

She was born and raised in a farming town in the Central Valley of California. Her father had immigrated from Mexico and worked on the farms. Her mother was a secretary. She says they always told her she could do anything — and you might say that ever since she’s been busy proving them right.

Through it all, she’s been focused on just how you get good things done: trying to bridge the private sector’s focus on results with the public sector’s commitment to the common good. Along the way, she’s learned a lot about what works, and what doesn’t.

It’s a crucially important topic, especially now, as impact has become the watchword for government and nonprofits: Can you measure the good you’re doing? Are you making a difference that matters?

Amanda Renteria has thought a lot about questions like those, and has the insights to show — many of them arising from her own life story — as you’ll hear in this interview with Dastardly Cleverness host Spencer Critchley.

About Amanda Renteria

Amanda recently ran for Governor of California providing a unique voice in the most progressive state in the union. As a long-time public servant, she has served at every level of government and in several high level positions during key political moments of history.

Most recently, she served as Chief of Operations for the California Department of Justice. She was part of the executive team for Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Under her direction, she oversaw an annual budget of $850 million and manages a team of about 1,000 public servants.

Amanda began her government service at the local level in the City of San Jose and spent close to a decade in the United States Senate. During her Senate tenure, Amanda worked closely on the Affordable Care Act, the Farm Bill, and the Re-organization of the Auto Industry. She was named one of the top 50 most influential staffers and became the first Latina Chief of Staff in the United States Senate. In 2014, she returned to her hometown and was a candidate for US Congress in California’s 21st District, where she was chosen as the Democratic Party’s nominee.

In 2016, Amanda served as the National Political Director for Secretary Clinton’s presidential run. Amanda oversaw the campaign’s political strategy with elected officials and key constituency groups. Her team conducted a wide range of outreach and engagement programs at the local, state, and federal levels. Amanda often served as a surrogate and campaign spokesperson on all media platforms, including CNN, MSNBC, FOX, NPR, Univision and Telemundo and their state and local affiliates. She was featured in several publications including Allure, Buzzfeed, Cosmo, Elle, McClatchy, Politico, and Sports Illustrated.

She is a proud daughter of parents who began as farmworkers in the rural Central Valley of California, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Business school, and a mom of two young energetic kids.

 

Transcription

(Automatically generated by software; you may find errors — please feel free to let us know if you do.)

0:00:00

Spencer

Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good is produced by Boots Road Group. Boots Road Group creates impact, communication, campaigns, web sites, social media and more. Booth Road Group's client list includes federal, state and local governments, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Cookstove Project for global health, the University of California at Berkeley and many others. More at bootsroad.com.

0:00:24

Spencer

Welcome to Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good, the podcast for people who make progress.

0:00:31

Spencer

I'm Spencer Critchley. Today on the podcast. Amanda Renteria. Among other things, she's run for governor of California and congress, was Hillary Clinton's political director, has worked for two senators and been an investment banker, and she's learned a thing or two about what works in making change. Amanda Renteria, this time on Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good.

0:00:56

Spencer

Amanda Renteria was born and raised in a farming town in the central valley of California. Her father had immigrated from Mexico and worked on the farms. Her mother was a secretary. She says they always told her she could do anything if she worked hard. And you might say that ever since she's been busy proving them right,

0:01:14

Spencer

Amanda was the first person in the town of Woodlake California to go to Stanford University, where she studied economics and politics. Later, she got an MBA from Harvard. She's worked for Goldman sSachs, the City of San Jose and two senators, has been a teacher and coach at her old high school, has run for congress, held a top position in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, directed operations for the California Department of Justice, and this year she ran for Governor of California.

0:01:41

Spencer

Through it all, she's been focused on just how you get good things done trying to bridge the private sector's focus on results with the public sectors commitment to the common good. Along the way, she's learned a lot about what works and what doesn't it's a crucially important topic, especially now, as impact has become the watchword for government and nonprofit can you measure the good you're doing? Are you making a difference that matters? Amanda Renteria has thought a lot about questions like those and has the insights to show many of them are rising from her own life story. As you'll hear in this interview, you confined notes and links for our discussion at Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good. Here now is my conversation with Amanda Renteria. Amanda, thanks so much for joining me.

0:02:23

Amanda

Thank you for having me on.

0:02:25

Spencer

In reading about you. I was so struck by all the places you've been things you've done already when you think back to yourself as a little girl growing up in Woodlake, California, can you see how you would end up doing all these things and following this path? What influenced you most when you were little?

0:02:39

Amanda

Ah, so the short answer to that is no, not at all.

0:02:44

Amanda

You know, i think when you grow up in a rural town, you are, you know, it's, tough to see or at least for me it was tough to see beyond that and in fact, a little scary, to be honest,

0:02:56

Amanda

but i just never believed there was something i couldn't do, and no matter what that was, whether that was even as a young kid being one of the very few girls that made the boys all star baseball team or all the different ways in a small town that you could kind of test your own boundaries. And i had an opportunity growing up in a small town to play on sports teams, to be in dancing groups, and my parents never really stopped any of my interests, and if anything, they would just say, okay, me, how work harder,

0:03:31

Amanda

no matter what it was that was my parents answer, and it wasn't lost on me that i knew how hard my parents worked for us to have a better life. And so no matter what i did,

0:03:44

Amanda

even as a kid, they made it really clear that our job was to do our best and work hard on whatever we do, and that was it. I wouldn't have to go get a job, per se, but that was it.

0:03:56

Amanda

And i think you know, it's, almost the lack of knowing there were boundaries

0:04:01

Amanda

that has allowed me to be, i think, a little bit more of a risk taker and just believe that you gotta put yourself out there.

0:04:09

Spencer

Did your dad come from a traditional background in Mexico? It seems like this is pretty forward thinking to have a little girl and be telling her she could basically do anything if she works.

0:04:17

Amanda

That's funny. You say that. I often say i'm kind of lucky we had no boys in the family

0:04:24

Amanda

because i'd like to say, is that my dad? Really? We were the family. We had to do everything. I have two sisters and older and a younger and and so we never had in his mind anyway. Any of those different dynamics. Now, i will tell you, when i when i got into Stanford,

0:04:43

Amanda

it became real to me how difficult that was for them. I mean, my i like to say that, you know, while i was only four hours from where i lived, it was kind of a world away from my parents, but i loved it. I loved growing up understanding that i would came from two different cultures or living in two different cultures in that sense.

0:05:04

Amanda

And there were these strange moments where you have culture, classic clashes, and one of those was the decision to go to Stanford to go far away.

0:05:13

Spencer

Yeah, and for people who aren't as familiar with the geography of California,

0:05:17

Spencer

that distance from the san joaquin valley to the campus of Stanford in palo alto is a pretty dramatic difference.

0:05:24

Amanda

That's right

0:05:25

Spencer

in all kinds of

0:05:26

Amanda

which is why my dad called me every single night at nine thirty pm to make sure i was home in my dorm room my freshman year, i

0:05:32

Spencer

got good for him,

0:05:34

Spencer

maybe not good for you, but good for him.

0:05:37

Spencer

And then when you went to Stanford, you majored in economics and political science. How did you choose those somewhere?

0:05:44

Amanda

I always ah, i'm fascinate when i go back to think about me as an eighteen or seventeen year old applying for schools, i actually put prelaw and pre meant because i had no idea what wilson was out there

0:06:00

Amanda

and really didn't have parents who could try and help me navigate that right. And so you just do what you thought you're supposed to do.

0:06:07

Amanda

Um when i got when i got to Stanford, i just sort of fell in. Love with everything i mean from being able to be open to a whole new world. But what i've noticed myself doing is really gravitating towards two different things, and it was always a hard skill, soft skill. On the one hand, it was i wanted to understand how sort of leadership works in the world, that this was the year of the woman there's. A lot of talk about nineteen, ninety two women in politics, and i found that really fascinating seeing new faces emerge until leadership circles. The second piece was i always my dad used to always say something which is meeting if you want to know the way something works, follow the money

0:06:46

Amanda

and so in my mind and seen sort of trying to figure out how the nuts and bolts of things worked, that was the money aspect. And so i ended up, you know, really gravitating for the to the classes that i found intriguing, and they led me to political science and on the hard skill stuff, the economics. And ever since then, i sort of feel like i love being in both of those worlds bullets, understanding the soft stuff and really understanding how the money and the logistics worked as well.

0:07:14

Spencer

Well, interesting. I mean, your dad seems like he was pretty wise. How much education did he have

0:07:20

Amanda

so threw in mexico? He went up to sixth grade and then kind of went back and forth. But he graduated.

0:07:27

Amanda

He graduated from high school. He did all of that. Still can't read a book cover to cover in english. Ah, but incredibly wise and who he was. I mean, his dad went back to mexico, and he was sort of the father figure for all of his siblings for many years. Andi, i think that's really what gave him his education and his inspiration. And and so i always i always seek counsel from him, as you might expect, especially because he was sort of the older kid that navigated the waters of a new country. And how do you manage? And how do you make sure that food's on the table for everyone in the family

0:08:02

Spencer

now you? When you graduated from Stanford, you went to goldman sachs? Is that right? Was that your first big job about a call?

0:08:08

Amanda

That was i you know, when i graduated, i sort of felt again,

0:08:14

Amanda

i didn't know the world of careers,

0:08:17

Amanda

and when i was kind of seeking on, where do i need to go? I fell in love with this idea of the intensity, and at the time there was a lot of talk about the market's being a really powerful force and moving our country and our economy forward. And of course, my dad, my dad's head was always about, you know, because you've gotta learn that stuff, you've gotta learn how the money works. You've gotta learn how business works.

0:08:43

Amanda

And so it seemed the natural progression of my learning process, and so i didn't really know much about all the different eye banks. In fact, i did, i could tell you i didn't really know quite the difference between a goldman and a merrill and all the different things that my friends were applying to. But what i did is

0:09:01

Spencer

i bank, you mean sorry to interrupt my eye bank? You mean investment bank for people?

0:09:05

Amanda

Yeah, investment banks. Yeah,

0:09:08

Amanda

that's, right. And i didn't know the jargon at the time. So it's kind of funny to hear myself use use some of those terms, but you know, it was it seemed to just fit me, and it seemed that that's where my skills are worked the intensity, it felt a little bit like sports, and and frankly, i knew i didn't know much about the professional world. I didn't know how to wear a suit or what wine was like what the different wines were clocking afghan restaurants, and when i looked into and peeked into the world, it seemed like a place not only that i could succeed, but i would be able to continue my learning curve,

0:09:41

Spencer

and this was the nineties, and at that time i think there was, as you say, there was quite a lot of dynamism on wall street was being deregulated in a

0:09:48

Spencer

a lot of people across the political spectrum

0:09:51

Spencer

ah, felt like maybe there was a lot of potential here for a beneficial economic growth. You know, the democrats famously the time bill clinton helping to deregulate wall street and feeling like there was a humane form of capitalism might be emerging,

0:10:07

Spencer

of course, in retrospect, people have revise some of their opinions about that

0:10:12

Spencer

and and even the mention of goldman sachs now to some. Democrats is going to sound pretty suspect a cz you know very well, Hillary gotten a lot of trouble during her campaign for just having given speeches to goldman sachs,

0:10:23

Spencer

a democrat yourself. How did how do you look at goldman sachs and the rest of wall street? Especially, is somebody who's was actually worked there?

0:10:30

Amanda

Yeah, you know, i can say it feels like it went to stray,

0:10:36

Amanda

um and it's interesting, because rather to college, when you make these decisions right, you're just trying to learn the hard skills for me personally,

0:10:44

Amanda

i'm glad i learned the hard skills of what it was like, i'm glad i was there before before the euro i was there before golden went public and i saw the transition happen.

0:10:56

Amanda

Um and it's frankly, why i ended up leaving is because i didn't i didn't feel the soul connected to the work that i was doing, and i often tell the story of having my mom described what i was doing, and she sort of said, you know, no one of her friends who said, god, your daughter went to Stanford, what is she doing now?

0:11:14

Amanda

And my mom sort of said well, she's kind of like a bank teller,

0:11:18

Amanda

and

0:11:20

Amanda

and it was sort of how she described it, but it was this sense of there was something not prideful in what she was saying, and

0:11:28

Amanda

it was that drive back from the central valley. Teo lay where i let that sink in a little bit and i said, you know, i've got to figure out what i'm supposed to do. I've got to figure out why i ever left my little town and that's when i left goldman and came back home to teach and coach back in my hometown

0:11:44

Spencer

that's such a such a story that you tell about your mother describing you as a bank teller, and perhaps not,

0:11:50

Spencer

you know, possibly not fully understanding your job, but also perhaps not really feeling all that

0:11:55

Spencer

excited about your job

0:11:57

Amanda

or perhaps truly understanding,

0:11:59

Amanda

right?

0:12:00

Spencer

Or perhaps truly, you were.

0:12:02

Spencer

Perhaps you're just a very, very sophisticated bank teller. I mean, maybe she was sort of under something there,

0:12:09

Spencer

you know, not tow not to downplay your accomplishment by getting a job there.

0:12:14

Spencer

Um so after you left goldman sachs, you ended up going back home and you taught at the high school you used to go to?

0:12:21

Amanda

Yeah, so i was, you know, going from goldman sachs to be in a high school teacher. I fell in love with this idea that i woke up every single day trying to figure out how to make

0:12:33

Amanda

how to empower these kids and how good that felt for the soul, how good that felt for the work

0:12:40

Amanda

that i was doing. And when i went to business school, my hope was to try and figure out what could mesh those worlds together. In other words, what could have the high intensity and talent and skill and energy that wall street has connected to the rewards of what it's like to be a teacher and empower kids and and as a coach and power players. And so when i went to goldman, i was really trying to find where is that space

0:13:06

Amanda

work for nonprofits in the middle? And where i landed was okay, i've tried nonprofits, i've been in the private sector. How about this government thing? Maybe that's the confluence of where you could put organizational theory and motivation and all that business skilled together with the rewards of being able to empower others. And so i went, teo, you know, you you go with what you know and you call your mom and you say, i think i want to try this government thing mom and my mom, who ended up being a secretary for thirty two years, said, we'll meet you have to go on the front lines and and so out of business school i went right into the city of san jose on the front lines as a budget analyst and working in a community center in one of the toughest communities in san jose at the time. Ah, and i thought that's where i would find it and to some degree i did. I did. I found it. And what i wanted to do with that is now i know governments the right space to be in and where i can bring these two things together. But how can we do that on scale? And i was incredibly fortunate to have met with senator feinstein staff trying to lobby her, frankly, on local funding, and then six months later, the senior, the senior staff for that i talked with, called me and said would you be at all interested and moving to d c and potentially looking at a job with senator feinstein.

0:14:28

Spencer

Well, terrific and of course, that's the way it often happens, right? You you could be sitting across the table from somebody and you never know what kind of impression you're going to make

0:14:36

Amanda

that right

0:14:36

Spencer

and leads to that next opportunity. So you work for senator feinstein for awhile. And then, ah,

0:14:43

Spencer

after a couple of years, you moved to the office of senator debbie stabbing. Now, what was it like working for feinstein? And then stephanie,

0:14:51

Amanda

i really enjoyed actually seen the different styles of two really incredible leaders,

0:14:59

Amanda

and for me, it was difficult in some ways, because i love California mean, this is the place that has given me the opportunities that i've i've always had, but at the time what was happening when senator stabbing, i'll asked me to move over to her office was the auto industry was beginning to show signs of a riel weakening, and there wasn't a lot of, you know, nba's around, and she asked whether or not i'd be interested in moving over to the committees of jurisdiction and so that is the finance committee of the banking committee that really runs the money and the economic side of policy

0:15:39

Amanda

and, you know, the opportunity to help in the capacity where she where i could, as a staff person where i could help write the policy was really attractive and especially at a time where it felt like our country was kneading it. I

0:15:54

Amanda

was really just an opportunity that i fell in love with, not to mention, you know, sitting down with senator stabbing out from the midwest, middle class girl or dad, her dad owned a car dealership, i just had a connection, and i fell in love with what she was trying to do, the kind of voice she was bringing to the united states senate and really into a place in the in the midwest that know i didn't know a ton about at the time, but it felt a little bit like where i grew up in the central valley, and i felt a little bit of a connection there, and i think that's, honestly, what kept me there for nine years is this idea of a state trying to emerge

0:16:35

Amanda

to make sure that they were on the forefront of a new economy, and that was really attractive to me, not only academically where i could use my business skills, but also just personally coming from the places that i came from in California

0:16:48

Spencer

and michigan is really quite a forward thinking state in lots of ways, a lot of people who are not familiar with it think of it is just like the rust belt in the old economy, but i spent a fair bit of time in detroit on the first obama campaign

0:17:02

Spencer

and actually again for a shorter period of time on the Hillary campaign and and i know senator stubborn owed from having been around her at campaign events and things and just like a lot of people think she's just a terrific person, but i was really struck when i was there about how in in the midst of the incredible struggle that they were dealing with as the auto industry did, in fact get into very serious trouble. They're very forward looking, and they've been very innovative and trying to come out of that.

0:17:30

Amanda

Yeah, and, you know, i will say this during the time that i was there, i think it really helped that we had that auto recovery that was, you know, everyone talked about timely, targeted, temporary and the idea that not only did government come together to figure out, how can we move this industry in a new direction, but business and labor came together to really figure out, put their heads together to say, ok, what do we need fundamentally to get this

0:17:59

Amanda

industry in a new direction? And you've really seen that happen? I mean, now we're seeing the fruits of that with the different products that they that are starting to come out with a much more of an innovative and innovation bend,

0:18:12

Amanda

but it was an industry when i first started working for michigan, an industry that was struggling with how do we turn this big ship?

0:18:20

Amanda

And what you saw is a lot of really great leaders come together, and i think most people don't really see the story of that deal coming together for the auto recovery, you know, the top, the top leadership of both the union and business had to leave after it did the hard work to put it all together, and then they jump. Together and i think we need more of that today. And i do believe that is where you see really incredible work happen in the public sector is when we can have those moments and it's a shame that we don't talk enough about, you know, the profiles in courage that the top leadership really took during those moments to save our industry.

0:18:59

Spencer

Sure, sure, and even now there are a lot of people who would just dismiss the whole thing as a government bailout in the government should never get involved in the private sector like this and, you know, there's this idea that the commanding heights of the economy should never be interfered with by government that's the old way of doing things like britain before margaret thatcher, for example, but that's not really what we're talking about here, are we this? This was an example of public private cooperation that ended up being a huge success. It didn't just rescue the industry and keep it on life support. The government basically got all the taxpayer's money back

0:19:36

Spencer

and the industry is has been thriving senses that's

0:19:40

Amanda

exactly right? And, you know, when we go when i think back, teo, the actual legislative language that was used. These things worth carefully thought out in terms of how are we going to put it all together? So that when the industry comes together, it's turned a corner,

0:19:57

Amanda

you know, whether it was, you know, making sure that we had cash for clunkers, making sure your tier two and tier three suppliers were taking care of and they had a place to go for funding. I mean, the entire apparatus really was a coming together of democrats, republicans, you know, experts in the field trying to figure out how do we get this in the right place? And it really is a story of something quite remarkable. And on your point about it's kind of interesting, i get this question a lot being anMBA about the role of sort of government and we just, you know, government needs to just get out of the way and that business can take care of itself. But what's interesting is when you get tough in business. Rohan in Harvard business school, you're never taught to be. Hey, let's, be nice to our competitors, right? The entire intent, what you are taught is how do you make sure that you can lead and you could become, in some ways, no monopoly? I mean, that's, what you're taught in business is how do you actually push your competitors out? And it is government that creates those parameters to say know that we're the rests, right? And you can have a great game, but we're the rest, right? And so it's always been interesting to me how people think about business theory within the political space.

0:21:08

Spencer

Yeah, that's such a great analogy that, you know, football would not be a better game if nobody was watching for rule infractions.

0:21:16

Spencer

It would be it would be mayhem

0:21:19

Amanda

and something as you see it on the basketball court when i go out there and everyone has to call their own fouls if everyone has to call their own pals, you know if it's a tight game it's going to be at least five ten minutes longer.

0:21:30

Spencer

Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good is produced by Boots Road Group Boots Road Group creates impact, communication, campaign's web sites, social media, photography, videos, animation and more boots, road groups twitter handle is at boots road. The website is boots road dot com now back to our interview with Amanda Renteria,

0:21:51

Spencer

you know, this is one of the core interests of this podcast really is solutions that work

0:21:57

Spencer

and trying to get past being stuck with the ideology, right? So if you have an ideological view, whether you're from the left or the right, it can paralyse you because, oh, no, we can't, you know, have a government role in the private sector if we're looking at it from a conservative point of view, or

0:22:13

Spencer

they were looking at it from the more liberal point view, we might be

0:22:17

Spencer

so skeptical of the motives of the private sector that we don't even want to talk to them.

0:22:22

Spencer

But as you say, here you had a case of government business

0:22:26

Spencer

management unions and what they were focused on really was the pragmatic solution to a very serious problem

0:22:33

Amanda

that's, right? And and i'd say i'd say another thing is the idea that everyone was not only the key goal is how do we maintain this industry? But the second question, which is, how do we position it for the future

0:22:46

Amanda

is really what kept our conversation in the right space because it's easy to, you know, to argue over who. Should get what? But when you're saying ok, what is best for this industry in the future of that really kept a discussion in the negotiation in the right place,

0:23:01

Spencer

right? As opposed to trying to preserve the jobs of buggy makers and effect?

0:23:05

Amanda

Exactly.

0:23:06

Spencer

Yeah.

0:23:07

Spencer

Now, after working for these two senators and rising to the position of chief of staff for senators, stab a now then you ran for congress, right?

0:23:16

Amanda

That's, right? A moved back home.

0:23:19

Amanda

Ah, and we ran for congress. And

0:23:23

Amanda

you know, i guess as i think about the course of my life, it seems that i constantly dip back home teo, to be fulfilled to remember why i did this work remember why i left in the first first place, but that experience was life changing in so many ways. I mean, one was, you know, obviously coming back across the coast, being near my family again,

0:23:46

Amanda

but also recognizing how the how i had changed over time, but how the place that i grew up had or in this case in my mind hadn't changed when i went door to door and tried to, you know, start to make a relationship in the connection i immediately realized, you know how faraway washington d c is two folks on the ground in rural america, and it was such a stark reality that people didn't know who made the policies, what policies if eh, acted them, whether it was democrats or republicans, just none of that had made it into people's homes and the and that led to a lack of engagement that certainly you see in the central valley, but really all across California, and, uh and it made me think back, teo god, when i was a teacher, i should have been talking about this stuff a lot more ah, and that reality of this disconnection, you know, frankly,

0:24:40

Amanda

that was shocking a bit to me that people the disconnection from d c to people on the ground was just much too far, and i recognized that it wasn't just going to be one one cycle, but it's gonna take time to really invest in empowering the community, to be engaged in their leaders, at any level on every level.

0:25:01

Spencer

It's really striking the voter turnout in California

0:25:07

Spencer

in this

0:25:08

Spencer

primary season just past was better than the previous one,

0:25:12

Spencer

but it was still very low.

0:25:15

Spencer

And when you consider the incredible, you know, awakening of political awareness and all of the

0:25:22

Spencer

protests and organizing and mobilizing and it was still so low,

0:25:27

Spencer

it's a long way to go,

0:25:30

Amanda

yeah, and it's one of those that we all need to be, you know, we the collective we embarrassed that were in the bottom California's the bottom twenty percent of voter participation rate.

0:25:41

Amanda

And when you actually look at the demographics it's, it's, even more skewed your growing electorate seemed to be more disengaged in voting and that's got to change if we want healthy democracy, we've got to start to find the ways to bring out voters and that that was the big lesson for me, which is i believe we are doing politics in the wrong way as well as campaigns.

0:26:02

Spencer

And you found that as you were going door to door and of course, that's one of the best ways to really get a sense of what's really going on is just being on the ground despite all this, you know, high tech stuff we have now

0:26:13

Spencer

did you find that when you actually spoke to people, it was different?

0:26:16

Amanda

So i found there was just i was starting from zero i was starting from do you know that there's an election?

0:26:25

Amanda

How do you know that there's a primary election? Ah, and recognising on the other end of the door that people just didn't know it wasn't out there and and then those that didn't know on i think this is a part that made me most sad is those that didn't know didn't trust it or didn't believe in it anymore.

0:26:45

Amanda

That was the part that just made my heart sink because, you know, i still believe that public service, that government is where you can make change at scale, for better and for worse, and if we don't have people on the ground who are engaged in it, who say, yeah, i'm a part of this answer, i'm a part of it, whether it's good about i'm a part of it. I am voting i'm to do my job, innit?

0:27:04

Amanda

We are lead, truly leaving people out of our country's voice.

0:27:11

Amanda

And so i was i was i was shocked at how i could have spent an hour on every door with people going through sort of. How we got here, what the policies were and why it matters,

0:27:23

Amanda

and that was surprising to me. Now, i know when i go visit the central valley today, it's changed a little bit, i think i think whenever i walk into a restaurant, i could actually talk about politics, and people would know it, but we still have that gulf of the logistics of actually voting, particularly in places like the central valley where it's rural, where we don't have density or community centers in the same way that you might have the kind of density in san francisco or allow it or l a

0:27:51

Amanda

what

0:27:51

Spencer

were your top priorities when you were running for congress? This was in two thousand fourteen, right?

0:27:56

Amanda

Yeah, in two thousand fourteen. So the biggest one, and it will always be true in the central valley is jobs, jobs, jobs. I mean, when you are looking at unemployment rates

0:28:06

Amanda

in the way that, you know, across the state, they're doing better, but the central valley has always had, you know, always playing around with double digit unemployment

0:28:15

Amanda

the and then that leads you quickly when you start to realize, where do we get? Jobs, jobs, jobs you start to realize our education system is not at all where it should be, and i mean, whether it's anecdotally recognizing what i had to go through tio, go from a wood like high school to a Stanford or the fact that since my graduating it took seventeen years before the next kid, i could do it, and frankly, that next kid did it because she actually heard me speaking at one of my fundraising events and said, wait a second, doing what? I think i could go there, but the gulf she had to walk

0:28:48

Amanda

is a difficult one, and it's gotten harder, not easier over time, and so i look at it in two ways we've got to start bringing in economic development into the central valley. And then secondly, we've got to make sure that the kids today have the skills to be able to be in our growing industries of the future.

0:29:07

Spencer

Unfortunately, you you didn't win in the two thousand fourteen race, but

0:29:12

Spencer

you did go on to join the Hillary Clinton for president campaign for two thousand sixteen,

0:29:17

Spencer

and you became Hillary's political director that's, right? First of all, why? Did you want to work with Hillary?

0:29:23

Amanda

So one of the things i i learned in my own race when we got our polling back pretty immediately, right, is when i looked at the numbers of people knowing Amanda vs david, um, it was it was a huge gulf in between not even know anything about this not knowing him, not knowing me, just Amanda vs david, and it was a major gulf

0:29:47

Amanda

and

0:29:47

Spencer

you mean, in terms of just willingness to rwanda, Amanda

0:29:50

Amanda

yeah, for a woman, and i think that was sort of a bit a bit of a slap in the face for me because of course, i grew up there, right? They empowered this woman to be me,

0:29:59

Amanda

and i went around the state, as you know, as i was learning this stuff, i couldn't help but have conversations with people, right? And this older lady looked at me and and in spanish, she says, i you know, me, i'm really you know, i'm excited you're doing this, but, you know, i gotta vote for him, and i said,

0:30:15

Amanda

well, why? You know why she's like, because don't you think we need somebody like that? Somebody like him, you're just like us. You're just like me, mika. We need somebody like that to represent us well.

0:30:26

Amanda

And what struck me about that conversation is to believe that

0:30:31

Amanda

when you look at yourself in the mirror, that leadership doesn't look like you.

0:30:37

Amanda

And what i realized is it was going to take a lot of time, because that that problem is a much longer solution.

0:30:46

Amanda

And so when Hillary Clinton asked me to join her campaign, i thought

0:30:52

Amanda

in one cycle

0:30:54

Amanda

we could change what the picture of leadership looks like.

0:30:58

Amanda

And what a difference that will make in the places that i grew up. What a difference that'll make for little girls and little boys to see that leadership can look different, that when you look in the mirror, that when everyone looks in the mirror,

0:31:11

Amanda

it can't be them.

0:31:14

Amanda

And you can't do that in a small rural town

0:31:17

Amanda

and building it up there you can, it just takes decades,

0:31:21

Amanda

and i thought if we can change the image of leadership in one cycle, we've done something incredible for this country on this world,

0:31:29

Amanda

and i still believe that, and i still believe that's what we did, because for anyone that now looks back on it, i don't think people question whether a woman could be a commander in chief. I don't think people question whether a woman can actually get the most votes in this country. I think we did actually change what people imagine as the face of leadership

0:31:49

Spencer

that's just such a powerful story to think about women looking at you and thinking, well, you don't look like a leader to me

0:31:56

Spencer

and, uh,

0:31:57

Spencer

that's, it can be so deeply ingrained, and that was a cz thie analysis shows one of the factors that must have played a role was, of course, there was there was the sort of sexism that we think of readily, but then there's the absorbing these images, even on the part of women think, and there were women who would, explicitly say, well, i i like her, i think she's really qualified, but i just don't think we're ready to have a woman. Is the president

0:32:22

Amanda

that's? Right?

0:32:23

Spencer

And as you know, you also remind me of obama making the comment

0:32:28

Spencer

about what his election would mean too little black kids.

0:32:32

Spencer

And as you say, just

0:32:35

Spencer

just seeing that the presidency was possible, and so you just start to think about yourself differently.

0:32:41

Amanda

Yeah, and i think i think what's also

0:32:43

Amanda

well, we have to remember, and Hillary actually said this, and i think it's, right, which is when we opened the doors of opportunity just a little bit whiter, helps everyone

0:32:53

Amanda

and,

0:32:54

Amanda

you know, i know for so many young people that i talked to write just the fact that somebody different could win the presidency, right? Obama can win the presidency,

0:33:03

Amanda

it really raised their own difference

0:33:06

Amanda

of who they are, right and said, no, you're different is powerful,

0:33:10

Amanda

and i think that is something we don't talk enough about when we see new new faces and new leaders emerged is just the fact that those doors opened a little bit whiter does really in power that seat of difference that all of us really have, right? I mean, i might be a woman, a woman of color, but were not all the same.

0:33:30

Amanda

My husband and, you know, it was a boston irish guy, he has his

0:33:34

Amanda

colonel of difference and that's just a school,

0:33:37

Spencer

and they change often seems to be really, really slow and then suddenly really, really fast.

0:33:44

Amanda

Yeah, that's, right? And it's, because the tipping point happens, right? You you just i mean, it's it's, the woman who just can't do it. That can't. And part of that is that she can't believe it's possible either, right? And then belief happens on dh that becomes contagious.

0:34:00

Amanda

I always i always put it like the fourth quarter where the underdog wins and you're like, how did that happen in, like, the last thirty seconds? People believe it's just gonna happen,

0:34:09

Amanda

right?

0:34:10

Spencer

Yeah, yeah, you've got to assume you're going to win

0:34:13

Spencer

and even if you don't win this time

0:34:15

Spencer

with that attitude, you're going to win some time.

0:34:18

Spencer

Hillary, of course,

0:34:20

Spencer

famously did not win, and they're the, you know, our thousands of theories about why that is and probably like much of history ultimately. There is there is no one reason in it, and it may ultimately be unknowable, but what's your perspective on what happened with the Hillary campaign, how did it look to you from your position on the inside?

0:34:42

Amanda

Well, i think it's

0:34:44

Amanda

well, lerner and in this case, i feel like we'll learn a lot more about it from all that might have happened from foreign agents. So i think that's actually a really piece to it all, but i also think it's a moment of time in our history that we're having, and i felt this as a political director saw this quite a bit, which is a difference or a changing of the guard in some ways, in terms of millennials starting to have a bigger voice in terms of communities of color, having a different voice on dh, learning their own empowerment. I think we really are in this generational shift that is really questioning a lot of the underlying ways in which we run campaigns and in many ways,

0:35:31

Amanda

you know, running in twenty fourteen, i thought this was just, you know, a mandarin serie a campaign in the central valley, and this was the uniqueness. This disconnected was unique because it was rural america, small town america in one of the more underserved areas,

0:35:48

Amanda

and what i realized over the course of that of twenty sixteen is it wasn't just what was happening in the central valley, but there was this disconnection really happening across the country,

0:35:59

Amanda

and

0:36:01

Amanda

and that kind of disconnection requires us

0:36:04

Amanda

to do things completely differently

0:36:07

Amanda

and that's a hard thing to ask a campaign, right? Because what has worked in the past, people believe that should work again, right? But i do believe we are in a moment where

0:36:19

Amanda

we're in a different kind of time in politics needs to be different, and what trump brought was disruptive technology to the political sphere,

0:36:28

Amanda

and it required us to take some risks, and i think we didn't see that coming in the way that

0:36:37

Amanda

that perhaps we should have,

0:36:39

Amanda

but i also think, it's just a time of true change that was happening in electorate, and we're still seeing it today,

0:36:45

Amanda

you know, people are winning that weren't expected to win and there's an electorate that's now waking up in a new way. I remember we did a florida poll that ass millennials? How important is it to vote in this or how important is this election? And it was incredibly high, they had ranked it incredibly high to vote, and then it was how much does your vote make a difference? And that was incredibly low.

0:37:09

Amanda

I think that same question today has fundamentally changed. I think people are recognising how important it is to vote and how much elections matter, and i think what now campaigns need to do is recognize they haven't engaged electorate, but that doesn't mean they're gonna walk themselves to the polls. That doesn't mean they know when the vote happens.

0:37:28

Amanda

There's a whole education platform that now needs to be distributed so that we truly could have engagement and empowerment. And i only wish we would have known that in twenty fifteen.

0:37:38

Spencer

Yeah, well, it always seemed so clear in retrospect, but it does seem like there is that common thread with people as different as trump and bernie,

0:37:48

Spencer

that there was just this uprising against the way politics had been done.

0:37:53

Spencer

Previously, there had been a fair bit of change already with howard dean campaign, the obama campaign, but clearly the public were not done, expressing expressing just how much they've had it with traditional politics.

0:38:06

Spencer

It was one of the things that was most disturbing to me was the level of cynicism and you would hear people saying, well, there's, no difference between Hillary and trump

0:38:15

Spencer

and, you know, people who wanted bernie, for example, who couldn't bring themselves to vote for Hillary, right?

0:38:21

Spencer

And now i think, as you say, people are realizing, perhaps well know, there was a difference

0:38:27

Spencer

i'd be interested to see how you feel about this. I often feel that one of the things we're dealing with is that disconnection i think sometimes it

0:38:34

Spencer

leads to a kind of purism which which results in people doing things like casting, protest votes

0:38:40

Amanda

that's, right? I mean, and this this is where i think i'm and internal optimist,

0:38:47

Amanda

this is where i believe the new, what i call disruptive technology of, you know, using now direct, basically, politicians can go direct to consumer now, right

0:38:58

Amanda

in twitter in how they speak and what i think has been missing for all these years is we haven't had the complex, uncomfortable, harder conversations that are longer than one hundred forty characters. But they do require the candidate to actually have a conversation and sometimes a lengthy conversation about how things work because i do believe that's the part that you know, all of the conversations now that people are having within the political sphere, it is going to take leaders to be able to step up into those spaces and explain how things really happen, and that is going to require people on both sides of of the aisle to come together and say, this is what we're doing i've always found in in politics, one of the interesting things is when we would pass a bill when i was in the senate,

0:39:47

Amanda

something would pass, and then you would see the talking points of the republicans of what they wanted and they got and then the talking points of the democrats on what they wanted and they got and it was a very different

0:39:59

Amanda

it was very different bullet points, i think, in today's world, we're gonna have to figure out how those leaders can actually come together when they get something done and actually do a summary sheet where they both use the same bullet points

0:40:13

Amanda

and that's when i feel the vision of really being a productive public sector in a dialogue with people when we finally made it.

0:40:24

Amanda

But we're not there.

0:40:24

Spencer

No, and, you know, you mentioned the direct to consumer possibilities of modern technology, and that makes me think of something else that i think is at play here. And from my point of view marketing ah,

0:40:38

Spencer

has

0:40:39

Spencer

come to play such a overwhelming role in politics and

0:40:45

Spencer

just about everything else,

0:40:47

Spencer

that citizens are treated more like consumers or customers

0:40:52

Spencer

and are put in a position of just passively, you know, demanding service

0:40:57

Spencer

without being enlisted to play the role of full citizens whose voice does matter and who believe their voice does matter. And and what you just described with the talking points is part of this whole marketing expertise that's grown up over the decades. Do you think maybe somehow we have to

0:41:12

Spencer

escape from this marketing oriented approach to politics and get back to

0:41:17

Spencer

actual civic engagement? You know, among adults who, by the way, are capable of discussing a siri's of ideas that might involve some nuances as opposed to just you know us. Good then bed

0:41:28

Amanda

it's interesting. You that framing, because the way of i've looked at it, is that this is sort of phase one and there's a phase two, because when i first entered, i was actually quite shocked at how little, quote the consumer or the voter was communicated to,

0:41:46

Amanda

right? It was all your establishment groups for everything, okay? If we're going to pass this bill, we need to have that group sign off for that group sign off,

0:41:53

Amanda

and that was sort of the phase i entered of politics, i think. And then while i went into more of the campaign side, the the politics, the political world moved, too. Now what i would call the direct to consumer where we actually are people are actually talking to consumers and voters for the very first time,

0:42:11

Amanda

and i think the third phase is that it moves from a talking at you conversation to a two way conversation, and we're not there yet. And what seems to me as if i were describe our moment of in time right now is consumers or voters want to talk to politicians, but the politicians are uncomfortable with it because they haven't done it before.

0:42:35

Amanda

And you might make a mistake, right? All the things that you get told when you run that you're supposed to be careful on your ass was take certain risks, etcetera, etcetera,

0:42:43

Amanda

i think that's their learning and phase two that will get too eventually, but we're not quite there yet.

0:42:48

Spencer

Oh, such an interesting perspective and boy, if there's one thing trump has taught us, all, i think is that you could make a lot of mistakes

0:42:57

Spencer

and you may you may be able to recover from them and, you know, and and in a way, i think one of the reasons that the people who support him do is they feel that he's authentic, you know, i think a lot of them realise that he says a lot of stuff that's not right or not true,

0:43:11

Spencer

but i think they maybe feel like, well, at least it's what he really thinks,

0:43:15

Amanda

what

0:43:16

Amanda

and there's something to be said about that, right, which is that you don't have to be your perfect self, but that we want leaders who are honest and we go through the journey with them

0:43:27

Spencer

and i often feel like that's one of the terrible bynes hilary found herself in is the first woman for running for president in the first woman doing a lot of things, and you yourself have been the first woman in the first latina doing quite a few things,

0:43:38

Spencer

um, you know, being stuck in this nearly impossible position of being asked to be yourself authentically, but don't you dare make a

0:43:45

Amanda

mistake? That's, right? That's, right? The good news is i think with that sort of, you know, weight on your shoulders, you somehow do make less mistakes. What i hope is that we don't know people that feel that don't take fewer risks because of it.

0:43:58

Spencer

We've talked about this amazing

0:44:02

Spencer

range of experience you have in the private and public sent sector and in many ways you've been a bridge between those two realms, so i'd really like to ask you, i think you have a unique perspective on this. What

0:44:12

Amanda

do

0:44:12

Spencer

you think people from the public sector can learn from the private sector? And then i want to ask you what khun people from the private sector learned from the public sector. So, first of all, what do you what do you see is valuable lessons from the private sir center for the public sector.

0:44:26

Amanda

Valuable lessons for the private sector of public sector. I would say learning how tightly run well run organizations work that sort of alignment

0:44:37

Amanda

with a common goal, and then making sure that it all feeds through being ableto have seen the logistics of that kind of organization is truly a remarkable i mean, this is capitalism, right? This is truly remarkable craft that our business community has

0:44:57

Amanda

on the public side. The reason why that's important? Because it does align it all right. When i got to the senate and i went well, how do we know that we did well? And why don't we have evaluations? And where you know, how do we know whether or not our priorities lined up with our work? All those sort of tactical realities is something we can really learn and take from

0:45:19

Amanda

in the public sector

0:45:21

Amanda

in the private sector. This idea that it's not just about today, the patients to do what's right in the long term

0:45:30

Amanda

and the

0:45:32

Amanda

and the reality that you are part of a larger system,

0:45:36

Amanda

i think, is a really important piece

0:45:39

Amanda

for for the private sector. To understand and what i have found myself often saying, when i go into the private sector is you realize we're doing this because it will make the system better, right and private sexual say, yeah, but that's not right for me right now

0:45:56

Amanda

of and and on the other side what i'll hear from, you know, when i try and say, well, here's, the business problem, they have what you hear from the public, what you took from this public side is, yeah, but we don't run like that,

0:46:09

Amanda

and so i think, there's, there is this space in between where and again i go back to that auto auto recovery, the space in between that if we can get together and say, this is the common goal

0:46:23

Amanda

and how do we get there together in the future?

0:46:26

Amanda

It's magic and i hope that and when i've seen it work, that's when it's worked best is when we've been able to actually get on the same page about what the government's role is in that what businesses role is in that,

0:46:39

Amanda

um and then work together towards a goal, but in general, i think we need a lot more. Bridges in our political sphere, whether that's, perspectives or ideas from rural america, whether that's, people of color, whether it's, first generation, second generation immigrants

0:46:55

Amanda

or even whether it's factory workers that are working in our campaigns are on our policy teams, right? We've got to start having true diversity in our government services sector at the highest levels of leadership,

0:47:10

Amanda

because what i what i have seen over the course of my time is

0:47:15

Amanda

just the different worlds that really have become more disconnected where you just don't even know what those folks are watching on tv or those folks are listening to on the radio and vice versa.

0:47:28

Amanda

And so what i hope is that as we move into a cz, we evolved in the government that we do see ah lot more different folks coming into not just elected office, but chiefs of staff chiefs of operations in the logistic side of it, too, because i could use a scientist and a doctor and an engineer and all those different kinds of perspectives on any team i've ever been a part of when i've been in the public sector,

0:47:53

Spencer

you know, speaking of dot

0:47:55

Spencer

knowing those those people a cz we too often think of

0:48:00

Spencer

different groups of people your perspective on what's happening on the border right now, it must have a very personal dimension as well as the policy dimension, given your own life story,

0:48:10

Amanda

and indeed it does and

0:48:13

Amanda

that's exactly what i'm talking about, which is i've actually i've always pushed for trying to put political leaders in places they haven't been before because i can't fault somebody for not knowing or not having the personal connection,

0:48:28

Amanda

but you can go to the border you as a leader can go to the border, you as an individual,

0:48:34

Amanda

right can go to the border and get perspective, see what it's like walk in someone else's shoes

0:48:40

Amanda

and certainly that's where i believe campaigns and politics need to be different. I've been really fortunate in being the person that was sent to flint, and i gotta tell you, there was it was very different, looking at it from the screen and walking the streets and going into the restaurant and having the waitress put a glass of water down

0:49:02

Amanda

and sit there and look at it and not know whether it's okay

0:49:06

Amanda

and then realizing at that moment that people have been living like that and not just for them, but they've been wondering where that that glass of water is poisoning their kid.

0:49:14

Amanda

And so when i think about what's happening at our border, when i think about our communities, our toughest communities,

0:49:21

Amanda

i will often say, you know, talk to me about it afternoon visited talk to me about it after you've actually seen it walked in it and what i am the hopeful silver lining on this is i think we're finally getting people to see that that that there's nothing that replaces going there and walking in the shoes, and i hope

0:49:43

Amanda

that in the future, that's more of what politics looks like

0:49:46

Spencer

the flint experience i was there for a while, too, at the at the same time on the ground

0:49:53

Spencer

and and the Hillary campaign was not actually campaigning in flint, as you know, they pretty much spending most of their time volunteering to help distribute water. And as a communications person, i went along on some of those trips

0:50:06

Spencer

and just one of those cases where you can't believe you're in america that you have to distribute

0:50:12

Spencer

bottled. Water to people

0:50:14

Spencer

because what's coming out the tap is not safe.

0:50:17

Amanda

That's right?

0:50:18

Spencer

You ran for governor of California this year against a fairly crowded democratic sealed

0:50:26

Spencer

you didn't manage to come out on top of that.

0:50:29

Spencer

Um,

0:50:30

Spencer

but it seems like it's clear. Now, what the through line is for your life to this point. And i can see why you might have decided to run for governor

0:50:41

Spencer

what's your view on that, and especially on where you go from here

0:50:44

Amanda

down.

0:50:45

Amanda

So,

0:50:47

Amanda

you know, when you look around and you are watching things and you say, you know, we're missing important perspectives as we think about our state leadership were missing talking about women's issues were missing talking about some of the biggest issues that we were facing on the ground,

0:51:03

Amanda

you know, we're missing, talking about a place that i grew up in the central valley are one of our poorest areas, and if i could be any kind of conduit to change the discussion, teo put it on the map to put women's issues on the map, to put the central valley on the map, to put our young people and new generation on the map. I'll do it every single day of the week

0:51:26

Amanda

because i believe that is where we need to go. That is a voice that needs to be heard and has been ignored actually for far too long.

0:51:34

Amanda

What's next? I don't know. Um, i really don't i i believe in public service. I believe in the work that we're doing. What i struggle with is right now we're having a real crisis and trust in public institutions,

0:51:52

Amanda

and i want to figure out how to build that trust back up. I'm not sure exactly where that is, but i suspect whatever i am doing, you will continue to see me in the space of how do we make sure that public service works and how do we make sure that we're empowering others?

0:52:10

Spencer

Well, i wish you the best of luck, and i want to thank you so much for taking this time with me today.

0:52:15

Amanda

Thank you for all the good work that you're doing, and the more we're talking about social good, the more we're on the right side of history and really taken taking this country in the right direction

0:52:27

Spencer

you've been listening to Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good we just heard my interview with former Hillary Clinton political director California gubernatorial candidate Amanda Renteria. If you liked it, please leave a review at apple podcasts. Or wherever you listen to the podcast. Home is a

0:52:45

Spencer

on twitter were at Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good. Were Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good cast is produced by Boots-Road-Group. I'm Spencer Critchley thanks for listening.

0:52:57

Spencer

Yeah.