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Dora Nunez MBA '15 is now the first director of community affairs and engagement for the Los Angeles City Controller's Office.

Dora Nuñez: From school assembly hall to city hall

Politics and community coalition building aren't the usual interests of most middle-school students. But then, Dora Nunez MBA '15, was not your average middle-schooler. 

Nuñez absorbed the Los Angeles city hall and school district news airing on “Noticiero 34,” KMEX-TV’s Spanish-language news program. Watching government at work in real life inspired her to take leadership roles in the student councils at John Burroughs Middle School’s Highly Gifted Magnet and Hollywood High School’s Performing Arts Magnet. As her high school’s class president, she once shadowed the late Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro through the marbled chambers of City Hall. 

Her early experiences taught her a valuable life lesson she has carried into public service: It is government’s job to help people understand how their government works and how to make sure it works for them.   

Today, Nuñez keeps that mission front of mind as the first director of community affairs and engagement for Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin. It is a role ideally suited to her more than 16 years of experience working in and with local, state and national public- and private-sector organizations that have direct interaction with the constituents they serve. Nuñez began her new job at the city shortly after earning her master's of business administration at Mount Saint Mary's. 

The University’s MBA program, Nuñez says, taught her to tackle work by constantly applying project management tactics and operational strategies. “The program also taught me that data sets are just numbers unless they are processed through qualitative and quantitative analysis,” she says. “And on a personal level, several of my courses were focused on the internal self and how to lead with soul.”   

In her role with the city, Nuñez serves a key office that, despite its unfamiliarity to many city residents, touches the lives of Angelenos in more ways than they realize. The controller, who serves as Los Angeles’ chief auditor and general accountant, often has been called the city’s “taxpayers’ watchdog.” Since assuming her new position last September, Nuñez has led community outreach and public awareness initiatives promoting both the controller’s critical function, as well as efforts to make city hall more transparent to those whose taxes pay for every public service the city provides, from street maintenance to water and power to police and fire.

Nuñez's team of three utilizes a grassroots outreach effort that involve dozens of business, community, cultural and educational organizations, 60 neighborhood councils, and 15 council districts that encompass more than 4 million residents spread across 500 square miles. 

“Getting people to care about city government and the city controller’s role, in particular, is one of our biggest challenges,” said Nuñez, who is a member of the controller’s executive team. “Each community we work with is different. That means we have to find different ways to build the one-on-one relationships that will empower them to more fully engage with government agencies and to understand how those agencies are serving them.”

Nuñez brings a wealth of experience to her current role. She previously worked as a field deputy and community organizer for City Council District 14, and later served a two-year stint as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s special projects director. In 2007, Nuñez joined The Nielsen Company, where she last served as manager of public affairs and government relations responsible for increasing brand awareness and grassroots outreach.    

Six-and-a-half years later, Nuñez left Nielsen to enroll in the Mount’s inaugural MBA summer program. While she pursued her degree, she served as a public relations and marketing consultant to Los Angeles’ history division of El Pueblo Historical Monument and the museum division of the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks. Those positions paved the way to her current assignment.

In the not-too-distant future, Nuñez envisions an even higher calling in government service: the White House.

“My career and personal goal is to inform, support and motivate people to improve their lives and become successful through empowerment,” said Nuñez. “Becoming the chief of public affairs and engagement for the president would be the ultimate opportunity to achieve that goal.”

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