From transit to housing, Price alum seeks to improve local communities as Gateway Cities Council of Governments executive director

September 28, 2018

By Matthew Kredell

Nancy Pfeffer MPP ’99

USC Price School of Public Policy alumna Nancy Pfeffer had a number of clients in her 11 years as a self-employed public affairs consultant, but one in particular was special. As a consultant in regional planning for the Gateway Cities Council of Governments (COG), she felt like she was addressing policies that made a difference in local communities.

When offered the role of serving as executive director of the organization, which she assumed in January 2018, she gave up her independent practice to lead the COG. The Gateway Cities Council of Governments is an organization representing nearly 30 cities across southeast Los Angeles County, with the mission of improving the quality of life for the 2.1 million people in the region.

With a Board of Directors compromised of council members and mayors from the various participating cities as well as officials from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the Port of Long Beach, the COG is a partnership of jurisdictions looking for mutual policy, funding and advocacy opportunities around the areas of transportation, air quality, housing and economic development.

“I’ve lived in this region for 25 years, love the area and want to see it prosper, so coming on board as director is really gratifying,” said Pfeffer, a 1999 graduate of Price’s Master of Public Policy program.

In her new role as executive director, Pfeffer is working with the board to revisit and refine policy priorities, while overseeing the COG staff, contractors and policy fellows.

“I think the board would like for the organization to be more future-oriented, more open to innovation, more open to technology,” Pfeffer said. “We have a lot of challenges in this region, which has been a disinvested part of the county since the 1990s when we lost aerospace. I’m hoping a future orientation and openness to technology and innovation will help overcome some of those barriers.”

A major component of the cooperation between cities in the COG focuses on policies and funding related to the common freeways and transit lines that go through the region or are planned to do so. The organization also has a Homeless Action Plan initiative, which has permanently housed more than 1,800 individuals in its first five years, and is currently working to develop a model Climate Action Plan.

Applying policy lessons

The COG recently engaged with Price Professor Leonard Mitchell and the USC Center for Economic Development at USC Price to develop a Gateway Cities Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

“One thing that is incredibly important to us is to be heard as a region locally, in Sacramento and in D.C.,” Pfeffer said. “Finding our voice, projecting our voice and advocating for policies that help us — that’s a big point of what I’m focused on right now.”

Pfeffer attests that she still uses what she learned at USC Price on a daily basis.

“A lot of what I learned in the MPP program as far as ethics, writing skills, technical and economic analysis are relevant to the work I’m doing today or encouraging others to do today,” Pfeffer said. “As I go forward with the COG, I know there are going to be new staffing needs and I will definitely be looking toward the Price School for talented graduates.”

She recalls taking the policy introduction course with USC Price Associate Professor Juliet Musso, with whom she remains friends.

“Nancy exemplifies the spirit of the Price School, as she has always been deeply committed to problem solving while acutely understanding the complexities of regional governance institutions,” Musso said.