Leading on the Frontlines: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

May 28, 2020  • Aspen Ideas Now

In addition to its devastating impact on human health, the Coronavirus pandemic has cascading effects for communities. From the Digital Divide to homelessness, how can elected officials respond to the pandemic in ways that promote equity and create long-term fixes? Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf says that by putting values first, leading with equity, and putting politics aside, civic leaders can not only meet the needs of the moment, but also create a more resilient future. Continuing our leadership series hosted by CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, Schaaf reflects on the values driving the hard-hitting decisions she’s facing — such as allowing a cruise ship filled with infected travelers to dock in her city or determining whether public schools will remain online in the fall.

Suzanne Malveaux is an award-winning journalist who serves as CNN’s national correspondent, covering politics, national news, international events and culture. Previously, she co-anchored CNN’s Around The World and co-anchored the network’s Emmy-winning coverage of the revolution in Egypt and the network’s Peabody Award-winning coverage of the Arab Spring. Suzanne has covered the White House for over 10 years as a White House correspondent and has interviewed all 5 living Presidents, and several First Ladies. She is a 2011 Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Mayor Libby Schaaf was born and raised in Oakland, which she proudly describes as, “The most unapologetic Sanctuary City in America.” During her tenure, Oakland has undergone an economic revitalization and building boom, as well as cut gun violence in half. Before turning to public service, Ms. Schaaf worked as a lawyer for two years at a prominent Oakland law firm. She served several years as an aide to other elected officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown when he was mayor of Oakland, and was elected to the City Council in 2010. Four years later, she was elected mayor and re-elected in 2018. She created Oakland’s first Department of Transportation, whose equity-based paving plan is the first of its kind in the nation. In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Mayor Schaaf to California’s first Council of Regional Homeless Advisors.