During the weekend, former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers was named by Governor Gavin Newsom as his new Chief Economic and Business Adviser and as director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
Myers began her career by taking on a communications role in Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential run shortly after graduating from Santa Clara University. Throughout the 80’s she jumped around various positions, becoming a field representative to former state Senator Art Torres in 1985, an assistant press secretary to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in both his role as Mayor and in his 1986 Gubernatorial run, a spokeswoman for Michael Dukakis during his 1988 presidential run, a spokeswoman for Diane Feinstein during her 1990 Gubernatorial run, and was campaign manager for Frank Jordan in his 1991 run for Mayor of San Francisco.
However, she was soon elevated to White House Press Secretary in 1993 after working in communications in Clinton’s 1992 campaign. She became the youngest White House Press Secretary to date, as well as the first woman to hold the position, and her time in the office was the basis for Press Secretaries in fiction, including in the TV show The West Wing. After leaving in 1994, Myers entered the media and show business, working on TV shows such as The West Wing as well as hosting and being a commentator on numerous TV shows.
More recently, Myers has come back to communications and consultancy. In the early 2010’s she became a public affairs consultant, working through numerous scandals, including representing Paula Broadwell during the David Petraeus scandal. From 2014 until earlier this year, Myers had been head of communications at Warner Media.
Myers was hired partially to help guide the Governor on business and economic affairs after business shutdowns since March have decimated the Californian economy. Mass closings of small businesses, particularly the restaurant industry, has also led to high unemployment figures.
But Myers was also hired in part to help rehabilitate Governor Newsom’s image. Newsom, whose popularity has plummeted after recent scandals on his watch, most notably the French Laundry Affair and the $2 Billion EDD fraudulent account scandal, now faces possible recall in California. Last week, the petition to recall Newsom reached the halfway mark in signatures and may soon have enough to bring the issue to voters next year.
Last Friday, Myers said that while she will be focusing on getting businesses back up and running, her first big assignment will be COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“There are challenges — but a lot of opportunities here,” said Myers on Friday. “I’m eager to get these businesses, and small businesses, back on their feet and provide resources and capital.
“Job One is distributing that vaccine. My role in that will be helping to facilitate recovery and helping businesses through that, while keeping an eye on the big picture and helping to advance the governor’s agenda on both those tracks.
“[Governor Newsom] is really smart. He’s a big and creative thinker, and I find that very energizing, to think about what’s possible. He really understands, I think, the innovation economy and the potential of the innovation economy.”
Reactions to the new Chief Economic and Business Adviser
Governor Newsom praised Myers in a welcome statement this weekend, noting specifically her nearly four decades of experience.
“California is the world’s fifth-largest economy and the gateway to the rest of the world,” said Newsom in his statement. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted our economy, California will bounce back thanks to our incredible assets and our spirit of innovation. An economic recovery that lifts all Californians will require us to work together. With more than three decades of experience in both the public and private sectors — in California and nationally — Dee Dee brings an ability to work across sectors, ensuring that our recovery is built upon common ground and common solutions.”
While many in Sacramento are happy to have Myers join the Governor’s team, many analysts have pointed out that Myers could prove to be unsuited for the position.
“This is a person who spent a decade climbing up the political ladder, then dropped from the brass ring after less than two years,” John Whittaker, a Washington-based lobbyist and former policy advisor, noted to the Globe. “Myers never took her press secretary job seriously and just made jokes or belittled reporters just trying to get the facts.”
“And she never stayed loyal very long. It’s understandable you want to move up, but she never stuck it out with candidates or people who had hired her. Even people like Feinstein, who is still in office today, she only hung around for a campaign and didn’t even attempt to stay on.”
“Now she is the point person to bringing back businesses to California. You know, saving the ones hurt by COVID-19 and helping stop the exodus of Silicon Valley companies from leaving, like Oracle did last week, telling Newsom how to bring back the economy in California.”
“Compare that mission to what she has done recently. She was at Warner in corporate communications, was in public affairs making people look good, and was a political commentator. She wasn’t on a Chamber of Commerce or owned a business, or anything like that. Based on her resume, she should be a press secretary or someone in charge of making Newsom look good. And I think they have the latter. I mean, they both went to the same college together and were both entrenched in San Francisco city politics for awhile. It’s all there.”
“Myers is very good at certain things, we can’t take that away from her. But when it comes to revitalizing the state, bringing back business and making the state attractive for businesses again, Newsom is really rolling the dice with Myers.”
Myers replaces Lenny Mendonca as the Chief Economic and Business Adviser, who left in April citing anxiety and depression issues.