The Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences announced today that former State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino will be joining the institute as a visiting fellow and student mentor. Portantino, widely known as a maverick legislator who focused on issues relating to government reform and transparency during his time in office, joins the Unruh Institute with a wealth of personal experience and practical understanding of the structural challenges faced by local and state government in California.
Unruh fellows participate in events over the course of the year in which they are asked to lend their expertise to a discussion of politics and/or public policy including lunch panel discussions, a series of evening events, and a series of smaller mentoring groups in which students can meet with an experienced professional to learn about various career paths in the political sphere. In addition, Portantino will be further developing the institute’s internship program, which already serves more than 90 students a semester. Portantino will be focusing on a “values-based leadership” approach to decision making and problem solving.
“Adding Anthony’s talent, integrity and practical knowledge to our campus is a tremendous benefit to the university and our students,” said Unruh Institute Director Dan Schnur. “His career of public service represents a positive example from which I hope our students can learn as they prepare to become tomorrow’s successful leaders.”
As a freshman lawmaker, Portantino chaired the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. He authored the legislation that created the California Institute of Science and Technology fellows program in Sacramento and he helped launch the Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML) at the University of California. SIEML is a unique partnership between the UC business schools, historically black colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions. When California’s “for profit” colleges were left unregulated, Portantino was able to reestablish those regulations when other legislators had failed.
“I’m extremely excited by this opportunity. USC is a world-class institution, charged with shepherding tomorrow’s leaders. To have the opportunity to share my experiences and insights is a tremendous privilege and opportunity. Working with young people is something I enjoy and this opportunity allows me to bring my passion for the best in government to an audience eager to hear it,” Portantino said.
During his time in office, Portantino pushed for accountability standards for the three higher education segments, salary freezes for the state’s highest paid workers, and for transparency in Assembly budgeting. Portantino supported the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee in a successful effort to force the State Assembly to release comprehensive financial data.
Prior to his time in the State Assembly, Portantino served eight years on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and two years as Mayor. He is a native of New Jersey, the father of two daughters and is married to Ellen Portantino, an executive at Warner Brothers. Portantino graduated from Albright College in Reading, Pa., in 1983. As President of the League of California Cities – Mayors and Councilmembers Department, he was a supporter of leadership training for elected officials and he has maintained close ties to local government ever since.