Director of the Employment Development Department: Who Is Patrick Henning?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Patrick William Henning (photo: Employment Development Department)

Governor Jerry Brown has turned to a member of his inner circle, labor specialist Patrick W. Henning, to take over the floundering Employment Development Department (EDD).

Henning, who has been Brown's chief deputy appointments secretary since 2011, comes from a family with a deep history of involvement in government and labor. Henning's father, Patrick Sr., ran EDD for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2004-2009 and was appointed to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors in June 2013. Henning's grandfather, Jack, who died in 2009, was a legendary labor leader and close ally of Cesar Chavez. He led the state labor federation for 26 years, was ambassador to New Zealand and served as U.S. undersecretary of labor in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

The new EDD director graduated from suburban Sacramento's Jesuit High School in 1990 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government-Journalism from California State University, Sacramento.

His first job in government (1994) was as a legislative intern to then-state Assemblywoman Hilda Solis, who later served as President Barack Obama's secretary of labor from 2009-2013. He stayed for one year, assisting in the organization of a domestic violence conference and conducting legislative research for the staff part-time while attending college.

Henning was hired as a legislative assistant by Congressman Vic Fazio (D-California) in 1996. He worked on Appropriations Committee issues for the chairman of the Democratic caucus and monitored legislative activity on labor, housing, banking, tax policy, telecommunications, campaign finance reform and economic development.

After three years, Henning moved to President Bill Clinton's White House, where he spent a year as a congressional liaison and special adviser to the president on appointee confirmation issues.

Henning returned to California in 2000, accepting appointment as deputy director for legislation in the Department of Industrial Relations. While there, he oversaw creation of  California's Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and more than 585 statutory changes to California’s Labor and Government Code. He also advised the governor and his office on legislation affecting labor.

Henning moved to the labor agency he helped create in 2003 as assistant secretary for legislation and intergovernmental affairs. He stayed for a year before leaving government service to become a lobbyist for the nonprofit California State Council of Laborers.

Henning returned to government service in 2011 when Governor Brown picked him to be his chief deputy appointments secretary. That was his job when tapped by Brown to take over EDD, where he will receive a salary of $150,112.

Henning, a Democrat, replaces Sharon Hilliard, who has served the past 14 months as acting director. EDD has been in the eye of the storm since the start of the Great Recession, although its reputation as a troubled agency preceded it. EDD administers unemployment and disability insurance along with family leave programs, collects various taxes, and provides training and employment programs.

The department does all of that with computers that are, in many instances, three decades old and the source of repeated problems. It has been hit with budget cuts even as it copes with far more unemployed people. EDD's bad customer service is the stuff of legends, although Covered California has been giving it competition for worst state government phone service.

‒Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Jerry Brown Taps Aide to Lead Employment Development Department (by Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

New Chief of California Employment Department Is Appointed (by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times)

Patrick Henning (LinkedIn)

Labor Leader Feels at Home Running State Employment Department (by Julie Sly, The Catholic Herald)

The Lifelong Crusade of Jack Henning (by Dick Meister)

Will 222,000 Californians Losing Jobless Benefits Help EDD’s Abysmal Phone Record? (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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