Gov. Gavin Newsom loses top aide, taps two key advisors

California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in Sacramento in June.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom is losing a top aide and naming two advisors to key roles in his office after voters granted him a second term.

Jim DeBoo, Newsom’s executive secretary, said Tuesday that he will be stepping down after two years in the most powerful staff position in the governor’s administration. Dana Williamson, a Sacramento political strategist and former Cabinet secretary to Gov. Jerry Brown, is taking over as Newsom’s top advisor at the beginning of the year.

Analea Patterson, Newsom’s former legal affairs secretary, will also transition from acting to permanent Cabinet secretary and continue to oversee state agencies. Patterson replaces Ana Matosantos, who left the administration this year, in a job that has traditionally been considered the second most important role.


The staffing changes mark another round of departures for a governor who is hiring his third chief of staff and has seen considerable turnover in other key positions since taking office.

Williamson is well-known at the state Capitol as a veteran hand to Brown, first as a senior advisor and then Cabinet secretary.

She operates her own firm, Grace Public Affairs, where she works as a government relations consultant and political strategist on ballot measure campaigns, including the online sports betting Proposition 27 on the 2022 ballot, and local and statewide races. Her history of clients includes California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, former Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, Comcast and Californians for Safety and Justice. She’s also worked in-house as a director of public affairs at Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Williamson said she plans to sever financial ties to her company while working for the governor.

She walks in at a time of transition from years of flush budgets to potential economic turmoil with signs of a national downturn on the horizon. Newsom has said he plans to continue to try to chip away at the issues of homelessness, housing and crime in his second term, while also focusing on carrying out the major policies he and the Legislature enacted in his first four years.

“I think the governor now is in a spot where he can actually work on implementing a lot of the stuff he laid out and I love nothing more than putting my head down and getting [things] done,” said Williamson, whom the governor appreciates for her no-nonsense and often direct approach, according to Newsom insiders.

Newsom originally tapped a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, Ann O’Leary, as his first chief of staff after he beat Republican John Cox in the 2018 general election. Though O’Leary had little political experience in Sacramento at the time, her policy expertise aligned with the governor’s desire to focus on early education during his first term.

O’Leary stepped down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020 after steering the state through the governor’s stay-at-home order, restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, and attempts to reduce virus transmission to protect hospital capacity.

With a recall expected to qualify at the time, DeBoo was hired with the campaign experience to help Newsom govern through challenging political waters and an understanding of Sacramento’s inner workings that could improve the governor’s relationships with the state Legislature and outside interest groups.

DeBoo stayed on through Newsom’s reelection and said he’s taking a break before figuring out his next steps. DeBoo was a political consultant to the governor and worked on ballot measure campaigns before returning to government.


He and Williamson were part of a business collaborative in Sacramento that often worked in tandem and shared clients with one another.

Over the last two years, he’s helped Newsom implement pandemic restrictions, roll out COVID-19 vaccinations, pass a series of tough climate bills, expand Medi-Cal to all immigrants and establish CARE Court to require treatment for unhoused Californians struggling with mental illness and drug addiction.

“I think my utility was those two years to help politically and to help restabilize the office,” DeBoo said. “He needed somebody in that spot that was of Sacramento to a certain degree and it was a tough two years.”

Jason Elliott, a senior counselor to the governor, will also become his deputy chief of staff.