Reflections of a State Worker



As most of you know, I took a little detour in my creative life and went to work for the State of California. It wasn’t because I had a burning desire to be a slave to the public, i.e.: Civil Servant, it was because I wanted to have some sort of guaranteed retirement in my old age like my dad.  So after many years singing for a living and working in the wacky world of radio broadcast, I went to work for the State of California as a Legal Analyst.  I became a government worker.


My day first day on the job was a cultural shock as I was led to my tiny cubicle. I spent a lot of time crying in the women’s bathroom, convinced I made a dreadful mistake.  My first job as a Legal Analyst was for the Department of Corporations, and the newly formed Health Plan Enforcement Division.  This Department was tasked with licensing and regulating HMOs in California.  However, they never really enforced them much. So when a new Sheriff came to town, the investigations were on and cracking.  We had a very small office with just a handful of attorneys and me, the only paralegal.

My boss slammed down a code book on my desk and said we were going after Kaiser. I was told to figure out what we could fine them.  Well, since the code was skimpy, there wasn’t much to go on. So, I came up with a fine formula that I hoped would stick in court. (More crying… I thought I’d surely be fired). The State of California had NEVER fined an HMO for anything substantial, EVER.  As a matter of fact, there was only one other case on the books where an action was taken against a health plan in California.  Here was the result of my analysis.  Kaiser fought this fine for over 2 years. They ended up paying and probably paid their lawyers twice that in defending themselves.

I was 39 when I started working for the state and I told myself that I would do this job until I was 55 (if I survived) and get the hell out. Well, here I am with less than a year to go until I retire.  Its been quite a journey,  and I worked for five different agencies.  I climbed up the ladder fairly quickly and went from a Legal Analyst to a Governmental Program Analyst to a Public Information officer 1 and now I’m a PIO 2 (manager).


So, when I retire next June, I will be getting my pension (40% of my current salary) and 100% of my medical paid.  As hard as it was to suck it up and go to work for the government, I did make life-long friends and and learned a ton about the inner workings of California government.  I worked for the Department of Corporations, Department of Managed Health Care, Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Transportation and culminated my state career with the Department of Motor Vehicles (7 years).

All jobs were vastly different and interesting. Some of my jobs were extremely controversial, especially my job as a PIO.  Here was one of my favorite media issues I dealt with involving Brittney Spears that lasted a week with about 80 media calls from every tabloid in the world.  Here is another one involving Ashton Kutcher that ended in a couple of lawsuits, but was a learning experience.


kcraFriends would say “hey Jan, I saw you on the news the other night.”  I would say..OMG did I look like a dork?  Did I say anything stupid?  Was my hair all jacked up? Because those reporters and camera guys won’t tell you if it is!!!  Then, when I see the clip on the news, I don’t hear a word I say.. I’m inspecting MY BANGS!  Yep… JACKED UP!

In my last few months, who knows what media issue will come my way CUZ THE PARTY AIN’T OVER YET.  AN A list celebrity getting a DUI or a big bus crash will make my day a busy one.  Being a PIO at a huge state agency isn’t easy, but it can be fun.

So, as I ride off into the sunset into the private sector…. (I never thought I’d EVER say this)…… a little teeny-weeny part of me will miss a teeny weeny part of my time as a bureaucrat (a word that I still can’t spell without spell-check)

My next blog post will be:  What I plan to do NEXT YEAR!




4 thoughts on “Reflections of a State Worker

  1. Love, love, love! What is funny about this is since joining you at DMV all I have heard about your countdown to retirement. I can’t believe it is almost here. I will miss you so much! Thank you for all the advice and support. What I admire most about you is you have done so many things in your life and you never seem scared to take on the next challenge. I look forward to being by your side during your final months in state service. Congratulations to Jan of all trades!!!!


  2. Jan, congrats on a terrific blog. Required reading for everyone – especially managers. Remember your first day at DMV like it was yesterday. You came in with great ideas that were infectious to the entire staff to the point we all rolled up our sleeves and dug right in. Trust me, even better times lie ahead!


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