USC Price School of Public Policy

Alumni Spotlight: Sean Tracy

Alumni Spotlight: Sean Tracy , MPA ’94

By Kimberly Ueyama

Sean Tracy

When asked about his current position as assistant deputy director for the California Department of Mental Health’s community services division, Sean Tracy will tell you about the “service” he provides, not the “work” he must do.

Throughout his career, Tracy has had the opportunity to apply the lessons learned from his master of public administration degree earned at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development. Tracy has worked for a governor, two attorneys general, three insurance commissioners, three assembly leaders, and in three of the largest state government organizations, including the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Franchise Tax Board and the Department of Mental Health.

Tracy’s desire to excel in the public service arena prompted his enrollment at USC, and motivated him to achieve his goal and graduate in 1994.

“I enrolled at USC SPPD because it presents the best educational environment to learn about effective governance and public policy,” Tracy said. “In addition, the Trojan family will always be there to assist with problem solving, training and education, career development and professional networking,” he added.

The USC State Capital Center in Sacramento made it possible for Tracy to continue a full-time career and keep Sacramento as his home, while embarking on a journey with fellow students about the opportunities to improve public administration at the state level.

“An important part of the SPPD experience is learning how to listen, analyze, collaborate, advocate and implement strategies to build a better public sector,” Tracy noted.

It is this skill set upon which he relies to accomplish the tasks his current job demands.

The Department of Mental Health’s community services division (CSD) is responsible for statewide administration of the Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63), County specialty mental health Medi-Cal for adults and children, and specialized programs which support the local government and private providers who serve hundreds of thousands of Californians in need of mental health support. The CSD is responsible for administering more than $3 billion for mental health programs annually through the talents of approximately 100 employees.

One of the benefits of working at the department is the knowledge and experience of the current director, Dr. Stephen Mayberg, and his executive team.

“Dr. Mayberg’s experience, knowledge and strategic thinking serve the department and the public very well,” Tracy said.

“Our department’s goals are to invest in change, improve outcomes, empower people, assume and ensure accountability, and enhance public safety and protect the dignity of individuals,” he explained. “The incredible talent at the top of the organization is successfully implementing these goals through performance measures and solid management.”

Such goals and objectives require the diligence and dedication of individuals like Tracy who advocate and implement systematic improvements and policy changes.

This has proved to be an especially challenging task with the state’s current fiscal condition, Tracy noted. However, the key to overcoming these challenges is utilizing the strength of partners and advocates who understand that, in order for the system to be effective, the leadership must collaborate and maximize existing resources.

“Together, organizations and individuals drive the policy and resource decisions for the public community mental health system,” Tracy said. “With federal health care reform, parity and integration of the entire public health system, the need to work through the tough choices and manage the opportunities is critical.”

For Tracy, the value of collaboration in public sector work was magnified during his time at SPPD.

“People who commit to the USC program are big-picture, collaborative and forward-thinking professionals who understand that a better system involves multidisciplinary relationships that can find ways to advance good public policy even in the most difficult of fiscal times,” he noted.

SPPD’s MPA program helped Tracy acquire the skills and knowledge that have been vital to all of his assignments in state government. He acknowledges that, “The experienced USC SPPD faculty and administrators are always willing to support the development of quality public policy responses, and they are keenly aware of the pulse of the Sacramento political and policy culture and able to tap into a wide network of innovative public leaders.”

He added, “It is important to have a constant and qualified presence in Sacramento. I am thrilled that USC SPPD is here for us.”