One mayoral advisor checks out

Torie Osborn, Mayor Villaraigosa's senior advisor on the homeless and poverty, left the City Hall staff at the end of January. Her departing email to colleagues says it's been nice and she believes in Antonio, but it's time to return to the world of nonprofits and to possibly write a book about social change and her experiences. As a longtime activist in the lesbian community, Osborn also was a key presence on gay issues in the mayoral administration. Her email follows:

After two amazing years, at the end of this month I will transition from full-time Senior Advisor to Mayor Villaraigosa to part-time consultant to the Mayor's office working on a few exciting projects (including "salons" at the Getty House), along with tackling a book project and some other exciting work with the United Way, the Durfee Foundation, and The California Endowment.

It has been a privilege to work as part of the Mayor's senior team for these past two years. I've known the Mayor for nearly 20 years, and working here has only deepened my belief in him and my admiration for his boldness and political vision. I expect to work with him for many decades to come. But in my soul I am a social change activist whose most effective perch is outside government, in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities. It is now time to return to that world. I am following my heart and my intuitions, which over the years I have learned well to heed.

I am proud of what I've done here on better linking together philanthropy and City government, and I believe the Mayor's Office will find good ways to continue what I've started. The work that I have done on homelessness and poverty has, I believe, contributed to some game-changing strategies under way; I will continue to stay in close touch with key leaders and agencies in the months ahead. It is not acceptable that the richest county in the richest country in the history of the world is also its homeless capital. But I do feel the winds of real change on this issue beginning to surge, and I believe I have been one among many who has helped make that possible. We have a long way to go, but things are turning in the right direction.

With this particular election year, and 40 years since the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, in fact, I am feeling the stirrings of a new and hopeful force for change on many fronts, and I am feeling the desire to spend this next phase of my life in service of nurturing it. I feel a sense of calling that I cannot ignore. Working inside government has shown me how profound the change we need in this country is, and I believe it is the responsibility of each of us who is passionate about reversing this country's direction to find our best role for participating. I want to work in the independent sector with the organizations and leaders I believe in, build the cross-sector (business / government / nonprofit / philanthropy) partnerships I believe in, help teach, train and mentor the extraordinary next generation coming up, and spend time writing, speaking, teaching. However, I will take much of the next year to write a book. Don't ask me what the topic is, other than social change -- or even the title (its working title this week changed five times, from A Great Turning of the Heart: How America Will Rise Again after I heard Marianne Williamson lecture Sunday morning to Radical Once Again: A Longtime Activist's Guide to Building a New America, to lots of simpler ideas)..... All I know is that this book is yearning to be born, and it will happen. I have had little time to help midwife it, and that's what I will try to create in the months ahead.

[Contact info deleted...] I'm trying to retreat to selected, strategic work projects and a writer's life, so I cannot sit on boards, or do pro bono projects -- except in very occasional circumstances. Deep gratitude for your understanding. After 12-18 months, this may all change, but for now I need this interlude to write, think, and focus on a few strategic work projects.

I continue to be grateful to work in the most exciting city in America for helping develop models of change and relationships across communities and cultures central to that change. You're part of that (or an ally in another city), and I send best wishes for a fruitful year of "virtuous troublemaking", as the Mayor's wonderful Chief of Staff, Robin Kramer, calls it, in 2008.

Thanks for your support of my work in the Mayor's office.

Best, Torie Osborn

Previously on LA Observed
Gay politics in L.A. lacking leaders
Going the San Francisco route

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