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Two former politicos join Unruh Institute as visiting fellows

The fellows will lend their expertise in discussions on politics and public policy.

Former State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) and former State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) have joined the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics as visiting fellows and student mentors at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Over the year, the fellows will participate in events in which they will lend their expertise in discussions about politics and public policy. They will participate in lunch panel discussions, a series of evening events and lead smaller mentoring groups in which they will teach students about various career paths in the political sphere.

Strickland, widely known for legislation to promote pro-growth economic policies in California and streamline government programs, joins the Unruh Institute with more than 15 years of experience in California politics.

“Tony has a real gift for helping young people understand that politics, government and public service aren’t just for old people,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute. “His upright leadership and experience navigating bureaucracy serve as a great model for the future leaders we are trying to cultivate through the program.”

After his 2008 election to the California Senate, Strickland successfully passed several pieces of legislation to cut what was considered wasteful government programs, reform political fundraising and make California more energy efficient.

He pushed government reform in an effort to save California’s struggling economy. Some of his efforts included state spending caps, pension reform and regulatory reforms as a way to put people back to work. He also served as vice chair of the environmental quality and health committees.

Prior to his time in the California Senate, Strickland served in the State Assembly for the maximum six years. During his time in the Assembly, Strickland was chairman of the Assembly Republican Caucus, the second-highest ranking position for a Republican in the Assembly. The California Chamber of Commerce recognized him with an “A” grade for legislation he authored and votes he cast to help create better, higher-paying jobs.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with and inspire the future leaders of our country,” Strickland said. “This is an exciting new venture for me and working with a great institution like USC and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics is a privilege.”

Portantino, widely known as a maverick legislator who focused on issues relating to government reform and transparency during his time in office, joins the Unruh Institute with a wealth of personal experience and practical understanding of the structural challenges faced by local and state government in California. In addition, Portantino will be focusing on a “values-based leadership” approach to decision-making and problem solving.

“Adding Anthony’s talent, integrity and practical knowledge to our campus is a tremendous benefit to the university and our students,” Schnur said. “His career of public service represents a positive example from which I hope our students can learn as they prepare to become tomorrow’s successful leaders.”

As a freshman lawmaker, Portantino chaired the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. He authored the legislation that created the California Institute of Science and Technology fellowship program in Sacramento and helped launch the Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML) at the University of California.

SIEML is a unique partnership among the University of California business schools, historically black colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions. When California’s “for profit” colleges were left unregulated, Portantino reestablished those regulations after other legislators had failed.

During his time in office, Portantino pushed for accountability standards for the three higher-education segments, salary freezes for the state’s highest paid workers and transparency in Assembly budgeting. Portantino supported the Los Angeles Times and The Sacramento Bee in a successful effort to force the State Assembly to release comprehensive financial data.

Prior to his time in the Assembly, Portantino served eight years on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and two years as mayor. As president of the League of California Cities-Mayors and Councilmembers Department, he supported leadership training for elected officials and since has maintained close ties to local government.

“I’m extremely excited by this opportunity,” Portantino said. “USC is a world-class institution charged with shepherding tomorrow’s leaders. To have the opportunity to share my experiences and insights is a tremendous privilege and opportunity.

“Working with young people is something I enjoy and this opportunity allows me to bring my passion for the best in government to an audience eager to hear it,” he added

In addition, Strickland and Portantino will expand upon the institute’s internship program, which already serves more than 90 students a semester.

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