McGeorge School of Law

Jim Mayer

Founding Pres. & CEO, California Forward
Jim Mayer

BA, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Masters in Public Policy, California State University Sacramento


James P. Mayer's public interest career includes tenures as a journalist, public administrator, local government board member, and nonprofit CEO. His responsibilities have provided him pragmatic experience in organizational governance and management, policy development and implementation, system change and civic engagement. Through his assignments, he has gained first-hand knowledge in education, social services and criminal justice; public finance and fiscal policies; economic development; and natural resource management. Jim began his newspaper career at the Press Tribune in Placer County and worked at the Bakersfield Californian and the Sacramento Bee. His reporting assignments covered a broad range of public issues, including local government and public safety, education and environmental issues.

As a project manager, deputy director and executive director of the bipartisan Little Hoover Commission, Jim managed and oversaw more than 30 comprehensive reviews of state policies and programs. The projects included assessments of criminal justice and prison policies, child welfare, mental health and public health systems, energy and water governance, as well as civil service, technology procurement and asset management. Jim oversaw the Commission's review of three agency reorganization plans and the proposals of the California Performance Review. Under his leadership, the Commission sponsored more than 80 pieces of legislation; 24 of them were enacted into law.

Jim was part of a small team that developed and launched California Forward in 2007; he is the founding president and CEO. CA Fwd is a bipartisan civic catalyst for governance-scale reforms to the political process, fiscal systems and inter-governmental relationships that are a prerequisite to improving results, transparency and accountability in essential public services. CA Fwd has been deeply involved in constitutional changes to the election system that have reduced partisan gridlock, reforms to fiscal policies that have increased stability and performance, and partnerships with local governments using new authority to deploy cost-effective strategies that improve outcomes. As the managing partner of the CA Economic Summit, Jim oversees the statewide network of organizations and leaders working to align state policies to the needs of regional economies and simultaneously promote economic prosperity, social opportunity, and environmental sustainability.

Jim has served as a director of the Yolo County Resource Conservation District and is a director of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. He co-manages his family's farm and olive oil business in Yolo County.

He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; a master's from the graduate program in public policy and administration at California State University, Sacramento; and was a mid-career fellow at the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan.


Enhancing Societal Capacity

Systemic Change