A major reorganization of California state government, proposed by Governor Jerry Brown and adjusted by the Legislature, is kicking into high gear. Last week the governor announced appointments to three new, or reconfigured, giant agencies and one of them is a veteran of state government returning from the private sector.
Marybel Batjer will be the first secretary of the new Government Operations Agency (CalGovOps). She has a long history of government service, but her most recent job was vice president of public policy and corporate social responsibility at Caesars Entertainment Corporation.
Raised in Carson City, Nevada, Batjer is the daughter of former Nevada Supreme Court Justice Cameron Batjer and traces her lineage to some of that state’s oldest ranching families through her father. She received a bachelor’s degree from Mills College in Oakland and took a job as a technical writer at Bechtel Corporation from 1977-1981.
Batjer took a leave of absence from the company at the age of 23 to run for a seat on the board of directors of the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. She lost. It proved to be her only run for political office but just the beginning of her political involvement. She was director of political planning for the National Women's Political Caucus from 1980-1981 and took her first government job as a political liaison for U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberg, who had been a Bechtel executive.
She also worked for Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, where she met his military aide Colin Powell. When Powell became national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan in 1987, she went with him. At the White House, Batjer was a national security affairs special assistant for President Reagan and deputy executive secretary for the National Security Council until 1989.
Along the way, she studied international public policy at Johns Hopkins University and national and international security at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
She became an assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in 1990 and stayed for two years before heading to California as chief deputy director at the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Five years later, Batjer, a Democrat, was promoted to undersecretary at the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency under Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s administration. Three years later, in December 2000, she migrated to Nevada and went to work as Republican Governor Kenny Guinn’s chief of staff.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger brought her back to California in 2003 as his Cabinet secretary in charge of running day-to-day operations. She was in the job a year before becoming embroiled in a conflict-of-interest controversy for joining the board of Bank Holdings, Inc. in Nevada, a month after it bought a bank charter in Costa Mesa, California. The company also had a loan office in Sacramento.
As Cabinet secretary, Batjer oversaw the Department of Corporations and the Department of Financial Institutions. The latter regulates banks, mortgage brokers and other lenders.
A month later, in October 2004, she was rumored to be on the way out and left at the end of the year to a job as vice president of public policy and corporate social responsibility at Caesars.