The Marin Lawyer recently spoke with Angela Nicholson, the Assistant County Administrator for Marin County, to learn more about her and the projects she is working on for the Marin County government.

What is your current position with the County of Marin and what are your responsibilities?

I am the Assistant County Administrator for the County of Marin. In this role, I served as the Emergency Operations Director for most of 2020; I am responsible for writing and implementing our internal strategic plan; I developed and am implementing our organizational performance management program, Compass, where we measure what matters most; I am leading the County Office of Equity team, focusing on establishing the County as an anti-racist, multicultural workforce; and I work with departments across the organization to coordinate and build a better Marin County government.

How did you wind up in that position?

Right out of law school I went to work for the Administrative Office of the Courts shortly after the Trial Court Employment Protection and Governance Act was adopted. I worked with courts around the State to establish HR policies and negotiate new labor agreements. It was an exciting time to work with courts throughout California. After the AOC, I came to the County as the Equal Employment Officer, conducting harassment and discrimination investigations. I spent the next seven years in HR, primarily focused on labor negotiations for the County. In 2014 I moved to my current role in the County Administrator’s Office. I took this role excited to grow my skills in budget and organizational management and have stayed because I have opportunities every day to make positive changes in my community and work across the organization to ensure that we are providing a high level of service to our residents.

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

I remember the essay I wrote to get into law school. It was all about my desire to serve. Local government has given me the opportunity to be close to the problems and the solutions. Through creative problem solving with residents, we are more effective in service delivery. I was never drawn to litigation, but I still use the same skills of analysis, negotiation, argument, and liability assessment every day in my work.

Why did you choose to live in Marin?

Marin is a beautiful place to live and a great place to raise a family. That being said, the lack of diversity in the “Marin Bubble” is challenging and doesn’t reflect the changing demographics and diversity of perspective in our country.

What do you love to do when you're not busy working?

I love to read, bake, and de-clutter.

Tell us about your family.

I am married to my husband Chad and we have a 12-year old, Bella, and a 15-year old, Corey. The kids keep us very active. We also have a Covid-dog, Bo.

Why did you join MCBA?

Although I don’t attend many events, I am always interested in connecting with other lawyers. I love the practice of law and I always learn things from those conversations. Legal careers are so varied and I get excited about strategy, theory, and emerging practice areas and laws when I talk to colleagues.

If you could pick a single highlight of your career, what would it be?

Oddly, I would say that responding to emergencies, including COVID-19, has been a highlight of my career. Though it’s always fast-moving, with orders changing every day, our COVID-19 response gave me an opportunity to be engaged in our community with people who needed services most. I was also surrounded by talented County employees who worked day and night to build COVID programs. Some of the programs we developed that I was most proud of included: the Roomkey program, providing hotel rooms for people experiencing homelessness; the COVID emergency assistance funding program, where we provided food and money to COVID-positive residents who would not have been able to quarantine without these resources; the childcare program for essential workers so that they could still go to work in service of our community; and the focus on disaggregated data that we did every day to ensure that services were getting into our most marginalized communities. It wasn’t enough to say that our vaccination rate was high. Instead, we looked at data for our LatinX and Black populations to make sure we were reaching those communities.

Tell us about some of your volunteer activities and what motivates you.

Most of my volunteering revolves around my kids. Over the course of the pandemic, my family was happy to make bagged lunches for people experiencing homelessness (through St. Vincent de Paul). During a period when there was little contact with the world, that monthly activity helped to keep the family grounded.

What is one thing someone would be surprised to know about you?

I don’t love surprises. If you talk to me for too long, you can probably hear my Minnesota accent. I was the middle child of five, which explains my love for mediation and negotiation to this day.