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OCED Alumni: Stacie Dabbs


stacci dabbs


1. Tell us about your former role at OCED.

I look back on my time at OCED with great fondness. It was an important time in my life for both career development and personal growth. I spent nearly 5 years in the office, starting as the Government Affairs Manager right when the ARRA funding was being rolled out. No one in the state was tracking the funding investments in any real way, so Mike Dozier and I thought it would be great to have our office develop a system for accounting for all of the dollars coming into the San Joaquin Valley by type. I had no idea what I had signed up for until I was so far into the weeds, I couldn’t see the sun! But it turned out to be a great resource and a project that I’m still proud of. From there, I became the Public Affairs Director and then to the Associate Director role. When I look back on all that we accomplished in that time, the highlights are the successful implementation of a $4 million federal sustainable communities grant that stitched together cities and community organizations from across the valley to foster relationships around smart growth and to incorporate the Blueprint Principles into our local planning documents and processes. I also enjoyed our work to establish the San Joaquin Valley Housing Collaborative and the Community and Regional Planning Center at Fresno State. Every time I hear about either of those organizations, I’m proud of the OCED team.

2. How did your time at OCED prepare you for your current role?

Two things immediately come to mind. The first, is the experience OCED provided me in managing people and processes. My leadership style today is the product of the opportunity to work with a tremendous team of people at OCED. It was also where I had a crash course in project development and implementation (thanks to ARRA again!) and many subsequent opportunities to learn how be successful even when you feel like you don’t have the foundation or time to prepare your path to success. We were a small team taking on challenges that others were not willing or able to tackle. So I often found myself in roles that didn’t leave room or time for self-doubt. I can’t tell you how many days I gave myself the “chin up, smile on” pep talk as I walked into a meeting, or faced a deadline.  Those experiences over the years absolutely shaped me and my leadership style.  The second opportunity that OCED provided that is responsible for my transition into my current role of Executive Director at MCAG, was the relationships I developed. With the focus on the entire San Joaquin Valley, OCED projects and initiatives had me involved in all 8 counties. This was particularly true with the Councils of Governments. When I started, one of my top priorities was to improve our relationship with the 8 valley COGS. I attended the monthly Directors Committee meetings, the Regional Policy Council meetings, and even participated in their Valley Voice program, all in an effort to improve relations. It must have worked because 5 years late, one of those COG Directors contacted me to see if I was interested in a job….. the rest is history. 

3. What do you enjoy most about your current role?

We are involved in so many projects and roles that I am always busy, always challenged, and always on my toes. What many don’t realize about MCAG is that we are a large agency with 60 employees and responsible for nearly $70 million in public funds. While most know us as the COG in terms of transportation planning, that is actually our smallest function. MCAG is comprised of 4 public agencies under one umbrella. In addition to the transportation planning role, we also administer the single, countywide public transit system – The Bus, two landfills as the regional waste management authority, and the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) which provides public transit service to Yosemite from 5 counties.  We also serve as the Local Transportation Authority for Merced County which means we are responsible for implementing and administering a countywide ½ cent sales tax measure for transportation that the Merced County voters approved in 2016.  So as the Executive Director for MCAG, I also serve as the Executive Director for the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County, the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority and for YARTS. No two days are ever the same, I am always learning, and there is never a dull moment!

4. Who inspires you?

Even though it has always been true, it seems that as I get older, I’m able to appreciate how inspiring my mother was as a human being. Not just to me, but to others. She passed away 5 years ago but remains such a strong inspiration in my life, as a mother, friend, community member, human being. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 27 just after I was born. Although she was in a wheelchair for as long as I can remember and was a full quadriplegic the last 10 years of her life, she lived an incredible life. I say without an ounce of reservation that she changed peoples lives. She oozed positivity, courage and joy. Her faith radiated from her, and even when she could barely speak, she would use what breath she had to encourage you or crack a joke. When you are raised by someone who has every reason to saturate themselves in self-pity and limit their life according to their physical disabilities, but instead chooses to live each day as an opportunity to contribute to the greater good and to be a badass human being, it is hard to not be inspired. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

5. What was the best concert you've ever attended?

The best I can do is narrow it down to two – Heartless Bastards at the Fillmore in San Francisco, and TuneYards at the Fox Theater in Oakland, both in 2012. The HB have been my long-time favorite band and I was introduced to TuneYards by my best friend Angelica (who I met at OCED and is now like a sister!) Back then, they were our favorites, respectively, and it just so happened that they each came to the Bay Area that year within weeks of each other! Of course we had to go and both shows were incredible.

6. What is keeping you busy in life right now? 

Being a parent and planning a wedding. We have a 5 year old daughter, Hazel and a 2 year old son, Crosby who get every minute of my time that I’m not a the office. That is unless we ship them off to their grandparents house for the weekend so that my fiance and I can clean the garage or work on the house! And we are also planning our wedding in October 2019. Nearly 8 years and two children together, we finally feel grown up enough to get married.

7. Have you ever met a celebrity or anyone famous? If so, who? 

I’ve met celebrities here and there but nothing that was awesome enough to really stand out as an amazing moment for me. Early in my career when I worked for a Member of Congress, I used to totally geek out when I had a chance to see or meet politicians – President Clinton, Senator Feinstein, Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich garnered the biggest reaction out of my 20-something self. But I did get the awesome opportunity to drive one of the staff vans in Michelle Obama’s motorcade when she came to UC Merced a few years ago. She took the time to meet with the three of us that helped out and chatted for a moment. I have a picture with her that day and it is something that will be in my bucket of life memories to share with my children and grandchildren.