Rich Ehisen

Back Writer

Rich Ehisen writes Comstock’s monthly Discourse column, featuring insightful interviews with the Capital Region’s most influential leaders. He is also the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal. His work has appeared in print, online and on video in Government Technology, Sunset, San Francisco Magazine, California Journal, Sacramento Magazine and the Lexis Legal Network. On Twitter @WordsmithRich.

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Cultivating Creativity

Sutter Health Chief Design and Innovation Officer Chris Waugh on empathy and the case for innovation under constraint

Chris Waugh’s entire corporate career has been about finding a better way to do things. Two years ago, he brought expertise in innovative thinking and problem-solving to local health powerhouse Sutter Health, joining the company as its first chief innovation officer. We sat down with him to discuss his views on bringing out-of-the-box thinking to a company over a century old.

Dec 4, 2017 Rich Ehisen

Getting To Launch

GO-Biz Director Panorea Avdis on tax incentives, public/private partnerships and ZEVs

California Gov. Jerry Brown created the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, or GO-Biz, in 2012 to serve as a single point of contact for assisting entrepreneurs and others looking to start, grow or move a business that creates jobs in the Golden State. We recently sat down with Director Panorea Avdis to learn more about what the agency is doing to help California businesses.

Sep 14, 2017 Rich Ehisen

In the Driver’s Seat

James Corless, new CEO of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, on transportation, housing and autonomous vehicles

James Corless has been called “a world-class visionary and leader” in transportation, land use and creative urban planning by Roseville Mayor Susan Rohan. He became CEO of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments in April, after serving as the founding director of Washington D.C.-based Transportation for America. We sat down with him to discus the future of the Capital Region. 

Jun 29, 2017 Rich Ehisen

Making the Grade

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on charter schools and the future of public education

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has spent his career advocating for education issues, from his days as a high school science teacher through his time in the Legislature and now as the state’s top education official. We sat down with him recently to discuss a few critical issues facing California’s schools.

Apr 10, 2017 Rich Ehisen

Challenges on Every Front

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on the critical issues facing Californians

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is one of the most powerful political figures in our state. With term limits now allowing folks like him to serve longer in one chamber, he is likely to stay that way for years to come. We sat down with Rendon to talk about some of the critical issues facing lawmakers and Californians in what is expected to be one of the most turbulent years in modern history.

Mar 13, 2017 Rich Ehisen

The Heat is On

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, on engaging the business community to go greener

As head of the California Air Resources Board for the last decade, Mary Nichols is considered the second most powerful person — after Gov. Jerry Brown — in the state’s wide-reaching efforts to combat climate change. It is an effort state officials have vowed to continue despite the election of President Donald Trump, a climate change denier.

Feb 13, 2017 Rich Ehisen

Giving Sacramento an Edge

Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council’s Dr. Chris Weare tasked with making the region more competitive

Every community wants a robust economy capable of competing with any other in the country. But how do you do that? That’s the question the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council is trying to answer. We sat down with Dr. Chris Weare, the group’s director of research and strategy, to learn about its efforts to pump more life into the Capital Region’s economy.

Nov 7, 2016 Rich Ehisen

Close to Home

Capital Region Family Business Center’s executive director on how family businesses can learn from one another

Since 2007, the nonprofit Capital Region Family Business Center has worked to help family-run businesses solve some of the unique challenges facing their companies. The organization recently took another step toward that goal by hiring Stella Premo as its first full-time, paid executive director. We talked to her about the ups and downs of running a family business.

Oct 6, 2016 Rich Ehisen

Class In Session

UC Davis Dean of Engineering Jennifer Sinclair Curtis on her vision for the program’s future

For decades, the UC Davis College of Engineering has consistently ranked in the top 35 engineering programs in the nation. That’s definitely good, but not remotely good enough for new engineering dean, Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, who took over the post last October. We recently sat down with the highly accomplished chemical engineer to discuss her vision for making the program even better.

Jun 16, 2016 Rich Ehisen
Mayor Kevin Johnson is not seeking a third term as mayor of Sacramento. (Photo: Randy Miramontez, Shutterstock)

Life After KJ

Sacramento City Hall is about to get a lot less interesting

Soon, it will all be over. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will leave office, most likely leaving politics behind for good. For a city that has come to simultaneously love and loath his high-flying, face-planting tenure, the future is sure of only one thing: It’s going to be a lot calmer around City Hall the next few years.

May 11, 2016 Rich Ehisen
Sacramento District 6 City Councilman Eric Guerra

The Long Game

Councilman Eric Guerra on homelessness, the marijuana industry and Latino representation in city government

After a decade as a key staffer in the California Legislature, last year the 36-year-old Sacramento District 6 City Councilman Eric became the first Latino to be elected to the Sacramento City Council since former Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna died in 1999. We sat down with him recently to discuss some of the city’s major challenges and opportunities.

Apr 18, 2016 Rich Ehisen
(Shutterstock)

The Exodus from Big Banks

Millennials trend toward community banks and credit unions

Much has been made of late about millennials leaving the big banks in favor of smaller community banks or credit unions. According to the Accenture 2015 North American Consumer Digital Banking Survey, community banks saw a 5-percent uptick in millennial customers in 2014. Credit unions saw a 3-percent increase. The big guys, meanwhile, lost a whopping 16 percent of their millennial account holders.

Mar 9, 2016 Rich Ehisen
California State Senator Mark Leno

Share & Share Alike

Senator Mark Leno says the ‘sharing economy’ is a misnomer for big business

California State Senator Mark Leno never intended to enter the political arena. A Wisconsin native who spent two years in rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College in New York, his focus was on running the small sign business he owns in San Francisco. But in 1998, then-Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors, and a new career was born. Now approaching his final year in the Legislature, we sat down with him to discuss raising the minimum wage, regulating the sharing economy and LGBT rights.

Feb 29, 2016 Rich Ehisen
City of Sacramento Director of Convention and Cultural Services Jody Ulich

The Crusade for Art Infusion

Sacramento's art czar says it's a necessity, not a luxury

Jody Ulich has been Sacramento’s director of convention and cultural services for just over a year. A transplant from Fort Worth, Texas, the energetic Ulich has brought a fresh energy and perspective to the city’s efforts to stabilize and grow its diverse arts community. We sat down with her recently to discuss the arts and ongoing efforts to modernize the Sacramento Convention Center.

Jan 14, 2016 Rich Ehisen
Hacker Lab co-founder Gina Lujan

Tech for All

Hacker Lab co-founder Gina Lujan on the power of making

Hacker Lab co-founder and CEO Gina Lujan has been focused on entrepreneurship for over two decades. Hacker Lab’s 10,500-square-foot space in midtown Sacramento had become a hub of innovation for numerous creators and doers in the Sacramento Region, from artists to engineers. The site has been so successful it has opened a second site in Rocklin. We sat down with her recently to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the hacker innovation space.

Dec 14, 2015 Rich Ehisen

The Helping Hand

Senator Holly Mitchell says a level playing field is the mission behind most of her measures

California State Senator Holly Mitchell can be an imposing figure. While most people presume that term evokes physicality, it is Mitchell’s intellect and passion for defending those she believes have little or no voice in the political process that make her such a formidable figure around the Capitol. We talked with her about her effort to turn that passion into policy.

Nov 12, 2015 Rich Ehisen
(Shutterstock)

It’s Still About the Economy, Stupid

Sen. Holly Mitchell on race, law and legislating change

Most people look at the civil unrest recently seen in places like Ferguson and Baltimore as strictly a matter of law and order. But to California state Sen. Holly Mitchell, those events are the inevitable result of a long-simmering frustration within much of the African-American community — not only at what they see as heavy-handed treatment of young black men by police, but of a general shortage of economic opportunities available to communities of color.

Nov 5, 2015 Rich Ehisen
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Are Californians absorbing the state’s water message?

The state’s top water cop on the challenges CA is up against

After years of drought and increasing government demands to cut water use and allow lawns to fade, the Golden State moniker is taking on new meaning. It has fallen to Felicia Marcus, Gov. Brown’s appointee to the head of the State Water Resources Board, to set the water-use rules for farmers, water districts, homeowners and everyone else. We sat down with the state’s top water cop to better understand the challenges she’s up against and the messages her office is communicating.

Sep 10, 2015 Rich Ehisen

Side Effects

Right-to-try laws could give patients access to experimental drugs, but the risks are extreme

Many of us are familiar with Woodroof’s plight — it was the subject of the critically acclaimed movie “The Dallas Buyers Club.” But while Hollywood took many liberties in telling his story, Woodroof’s real-life dilemma is one still being shared by many terminally ill people today. That struggle is also at the heart of a movement to allow those patients access to drugs the FDA has not authorized.

Sep 8, 2015 Rich Ehisen
(Shutterstock)

Can Legal Pot Work for California?

Senate pro Tem Kevin de Leon ‘not there yet’ on recreational marijuana

At least one if not two ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana use are almost assured to be on the November 2016 ballot for California voters. But while many folks see the legal sale and taxation of pot as a way to pump big money into the state’s coffers, the experiences of legal-weed states like Washington and Colorado show the road from green bud to greenbacks has more than its share of potholes.

Aug 5, 2015 Rich Ehisen
California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh

Governing in the Digital Age

California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh talks tech and the need to improve financial literacy for all

At 34, Assemblymember Matt Dababneh is one of the youngest members of the California Legislature. During his short stint in the Assembly, Dababneh has forged a reputation as a tech-savvy, pro-business lawmaker and earned himself the chairmanship of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee. We sat down with him recently to talk about a few of his key agenda items.

Jul 15, 2015 Rich Ehisen