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Interview: Secretary Marybel Batjer

March 21, 2014

In June 2013, Marybel Batjer was appointed the first Secretary of California’s California Government Operations Agency (CalGovOps). The newly formed agency administers state operations including procurement, real estate, information technology, and human resources.

Secretary Batjer’s public service career includes senior leadership posts in the executive branches of two state governments, as well as key advisory roles in two U.S. presidential administrations and at the Pentagon. Prior to her appointment as CalGovOps Secretary, she was vice president of public policy and corporate social responsibility for Caesars Entertainment, Inc., the world’s largest gaming-entertainment company.

She joins CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez as a co-chair of the annual Green California Summit. In a Green Technology interview, she talks about her new agency and the role it plays in greening state government.


You are the first person to lead the Government Operations Agency. What kinds of changes will result from this reorganization?

The Governor formed and created the Government Operations Agency for two very important reasons. One was to improve the organizational relationships among departments within the state of California.

Another reason for the reorganization was to bring about efficiency in processes. The “control agencies” such as the Department of General Services (DGS) and California Department of Human Resources in one agency, serve all of state government. If they are in one agency they talk to each other, talk to other departments, coordinate processes, realize where there are duplications and obsolete processes, and sort through them in an organized fashion that will bring more efficiency more quickly.

One of the very important things that we are focusing on is bringing about innovation and new types of processes to state government. We’re scouring the countryside for best practices in other states and municipalities in particular, for ways to utilize data, for ways to create e-forms – things that are not particularly sexy, but are very important.

In state government, we use thousands of forms, and we have undertaken an effort to “reform forms,” and how we use them. Some innovations we hope to bring about through totally new ideas to government. Others may come from reviewing old and staid practices, things that need to be done but could be done in a more innovative and efficient way.

I think it’s extremely important to coordinate decisions that affect all departments in California, whether they are personnel matters or how we purchase and what kinds of purchases we make in a strategic sourcing sense. You can better effectuate those things when the operations of government are in one agency.

CALPERS uses a saying occasionally that I think interesting. I can’t steal it from them – but essentially, they say that they do the work of the people who do the work. In Government Operations we are doing the work of government.

How does sustainability fit into the picture?

Sustainability a part of all of our lives, and so is a part of state government. We are fortunate to have a Governor who has lived and believed deeply in our environment and sustainability for thirty or forty years. He has brought a sense of urgency and a great sense of a need to state government, and needs and wants us to show the way, set the standard and be the example.

He is concerned deeply, as we all are, about climate change and creating conditions that will ensure our state will be vibrant in the future. How better than to set standards for state government that will help all citizens in the state?

Several agencies have responsibility for environmental matters, but the departments within your agency would seem to have most the potential to cultivate sustainable behavior within the state government itself. Do you see this as part of your mandate?

The Department of General Services (DGS) is extraordinarily important in implementing the Governor’s Executive Order B-18-12, in regard to how we buy and what we buy, in terms of our fleets and vehicles for state use and the operation of facilities that are owned and leased by the State of California. DGS has a very big part to play, and by playing that part they are setting an example for other departments, operations in government that are not directly the responsibility of DGS but are certainly following their lead.

The Executive Order has established standards and goals. We are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2015 and 20 percent reductions by 2020, as measured against a 2010 baseline. I’m pretty happy about the progress we are making there.

Also notable right now, with the terrible drought that we were in, is that we were already well ahead of the curve in regard reduction of water use. The Executive Order calls for 10 percent reduction by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020, as measured against a 2010 baseline.

That’s not to be confused with what the Governor, in this emergency period, has immediately asked everyone to achieve a 20 percent reduction from current levels. Some areas of state government that are well underway in reducing their water use to comply with the Executive Order will be making additional reductions to address the current drought concerns.

We are also working to reduce grid-based energy purchases and other non-building grid-based retail energy purchases by 20 percent by 2018, as compared to a 2003 baseline.

These are really important goals that the Governor has set for us as a state and I think that we can, as a state, set wonderful examples for all of California.

Are there things that are missing or that need to be expanded?

When the Governor formed this agency, we were given some good and serious staffing opportunities. One of the positions that I have designated is the Deputy Director for Sustainability and the Environment and I am currently working with the Governor’s office on filling that position.

One hundred percent of this person’s time will be spent on implementing the Executive Orders, as well as bringing best practices with regard to sustainability, facilities, and general practices, to GovOps so that we can continuing communicating and developing guidelines for the rest of the state.

I’m excited about this position, and I think it’s going to be really, really helpful.  

You’re a co-chair for the upcoming Green California Summit. Why is it important for people to take advantage of this conference?

I’m a huge believer in learning from each other and sharing ideas and best practices. I don’t think any one of us has a corner on knowledge. It’s not only a wonderful intellectual experience, but it’s also fun when you get in a room with people who have expertise, who have practical knowledge and can share it.

I’m very excited when there are opportunities like the Green California Summit, where people can get together and really bang out some great thinking together. The Summit is one of those venues that allow people to really learn from one another and then take what they have learned back to their home base and better their own practices.

Thank you.

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