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Post-Election Reflection: LASC’s Commitment to Local Action and Building Leaders

Kristen Pawling is the Los Angeles Urban Solutions Coordinator at Natural Resources Defense Council and also serves on the board of directors for the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative. 


I wrote this blog a couple of months ago, but never actually posted it.  After last week’s election and a heartfelt discussion with my fellow board members, we decided that the message of this post could not be more timely.  While we applauded the success of some major local and state environmental measures, our hearts were not in the celebrating mood.  We now have a climate denialist very shortly assuming our country’s highest leadership role, so we at the LA Sustainability Collaborative are ever more steadfast in our commitment to building up local leaders who prioritize the future of this planet and its people, especially those in Los Angeles.  We are proud Angelenos and Californians who take pressing environmental and social challenges very seriously.  In addition to vigorously monitoring federal policy, I am personally committed to taking action by responding to the call to local leadership and will carry this obligation into my second meeting of the Culver City Bicycle & Pedestrian Committee this Thursday.

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Riding through Washington D.C. with the Capitol in the background as I look upon the White House.

In solidarity,

Kristen Pawling 
LASC Research & Programs Committee Chair


September 2016

This week was my first venture into appointed public service.

Several months back I was appointed to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee by the Culver City Council, last Thursday we convened for the first time.   While it may be my first time in this role, taking the oath of office made me reflect on how I got there and the importance of leadership development programs, like the LA Sustainability Collaborative (LASC).

I’ve been a public servant  in some shape or form since the age of nineteen as an intern for Riverside City Attorney’s Office.  Since then I have worked in state and regional government, learned about a kaleidoscope of agencies, and mastered the alphabet soup of organizations that develop policies, implement programs, pave the streets, and keep the lights on. Over nearly a decade I’ve met incredibly smart and inspiring staff, appointees, and elected officials, including my father who has been a dutiful public servant for over fifteen years. I’ve also clawed through the belly of the most bewildering of bureaucratic beasts.  I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in just ten years.  All that to say, it takes serious inspiration to stick with public service.

In addition to my father’s encouragement, what really got me started in appreciating public service was the Youth & Government Model Legislature Program.  “Y&G,” as it’s affectionately known, brings together hundreds of high schoolers from across the state.  We drafted a bill on second language education, learned how to run for office, and called for votes on the actual floor of the state legislature.   It was completely immersive and an incredible learning opportunity to learn about issues facing my peers from all across the state.  It also opened my eyes to the absolute importance of paying attention to not just national politics, but also state and local government where, in my humble opinion, issues and decisions with direct impacts on my life get made.

What I took away from that experience was not that I liked politics, but instead that I was passionate about policies that reflected the goals of an engaged electorate.  That eventually led me to the Capital Fellows program.  The Capital Fellows was the real deal.  Through a baptism by fire approach, I learned how to weather political storms, listen to stakeholders, and scratch the surface on governing a place as large and diverse as California can be. All in the midst of a massive recession and a ballot measure threatening to undo all the climate policy I was working on.

Those two programs gave me a firm belief in programs designed to shape the leaders of the future.  That is why I so passionately support the work of the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative.  I owe my career to organizations that prioritized investing in tomorrow’s leaders.  LASC’s dedication to building Los Angeles’ environmental leaders combines my passion for ensuring my hometown grows in a clean, healthy, equitable way plus the professional development for graduate students.

At this time of divisive local, state, and national politics, I am recommitting myself to demonstrating what the outcomes of investing in leadership look like as I take on the role of the Culver City Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee’s Vice Chair.

For further information on how to get involved with Culver City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee’s work, please contact Eric Bruins (