Respondia “Dia” Poole
Senior Governmental Affairs Analyst
and Communications Liaison
California Judicial Council
Alumna of CSU San Bernardino
What does government do? This question seems particularly relevant in the midst of a debate about the size and scope of the public sector. It is also a question that has intrigued me for most of my life.
My family holds public service in high esteem. As a child, I looked up to a father in the military. To me, he demonstrated the willingness to put himself in harm’s way for the protection of others. So, I knew even then that government was there to provide collective security, whether through national defense or public safety.
A second concept of government emerged as my family spent time in the American southeast. The principle has many names – equity, fairness, and justice – but ultimately it boils down to the right of a person to live and work with dignity. It is the concept that government works for every citizen, regardless of status, race, gender, orientation or religion.
It is this concept of fairness that has fueled my work for California. Appointed by Governor Davis, I worked for four years as deputy director of external affairs for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. My job was to inform people about their rights under California’s anti-discrimination laws. As an African-American woman with parents deeply influenced by the civil rights movement, I felt privileged to be part of an organization that continues the legacy of restoring and maintaining individual rights.
Now 30 years into my career, I have worked for all three branches of state government. Half of my career was in local government, which in many ways is California’s fourth branch. In all of these branches, I have seen a unifying third concept of government – effectiveness. Our job in government is to learn what the public needs and expects, and to deliver those services in a fiscally responsible way.
This does not mean that unreasonable expectations can be met with insufficient resources. Those of us who have been in government for a while realize that public expectations are on the rise, while public resources are on the decline. Part of my responsibility here at the Judicial Council’s Office of Governmental Affairs is to convey those fiscal realities to policymakers and the public.
It is inspiring that many CSU students continue to desire a life of public service despite the numerous challenges that they will face. As an alumna of CSU San Bernardino and the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program, I have greatly enjoyed mentoring students in the Judicial Administration Fellowship Program. I can honestly tell students that I have been there, and give a little advice every now and then on how to make the most of this unique academic and professional opportunity. Mostly, I seek to share the gravity and great rewards of a career in public service.
In California, state government decisions have an impact on 38 million people. California’s reach as a national trendsetter is even greater. California will lead the way on environmental, economic and social issues. Whether that leadership is positive or negative will depend largely on future public administrators. I take great comfort in knowing that many of those leaders will come from the CSU.