Chief of staff for California state Sen. Bill Dodd, Ezrah Chaaban, wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: Serve as chief policy and legislative adviser to the Senator; counsel the senator on his legislative package and his votes on pending bills; draft legislation and amendments; Analyze legislation, existing statutes and case law; draft comment letters to governmental entities regarding rulemaking and other administrative decisions; supervise a staff of 18 employees across multiple locations, including district, legislative and committee staff; review and approve staff work product; manage office budget; direct constitute outreach activities and ensure standards are met for constituent services; and lead external communication.
In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?
I am passionate about and committed to the work I do.
Years with company: 4
Length of time in current position: 4
Number of company-wide employees: 18
Number who report to you: 18
Greatest professional accomplishment: I have helped shepherd 67 bills into law as a chief of staff in the California State Legislature. It's humbling to know that, in one way or another, many of them make a positive difference in our community and to 40 million Californians.
Greatest professional challenge: I think that for any leader, there's always a struggle between putting out the sundry (metaphorical) fires that pop up and focusing enough energy to accomplish the big, systemic advancements needed to drive your organization forward. It's a balancing act.
Best advice received: L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. What's essential is invisible to the eye.
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Working to preserve the open space around the site of the former Sonoma Developmental Center. As someone who lives and grew up in Sonoma Valley and wants to see future generations benefit from that land, getting that protection in perpetuity was especially meaningful.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
We work to make sure that everyone feels like a valued member of the team and that everyone has ownership of meaningful work, so they can realize genuine accomplishments.
Next professional goal: Having a successful 2020 legislative session.
Education: Juris doctorate, UC Davis School of Law; Bachelor of Arts degree, Sonoma State University ; H.S. Diploma, Sonoma Valley High School.
Community/nonprofit activities: I have previously served on the Sonoma State University Alumni Association Board of Directors, Sonoma County Transportation Authority Citizens Advisory Committee, PRMD Director's Advisory Group and the Santa Rosa Plain Basin Advisory Panel. I also enjoy volunteering to support our local parks.
Mentor/admired businessperson: My dad was a huge influence. Honorable mention to Mr. Rogers and Harry S. Truman.
What is your most disliked industry buzzword?
Typical day at the office: The great thing about my job is that there isn't a typical day. It's generally a bit frenetic, but the common thread is that I learn something new every single day and that I get to solve problems.
Best place to work outside of your office: I enjoy the occasions when I get out of the office to meet constituents at community events.
Hobbies: Hiking and kayaking. Luther Burbank summed it up best when he described our region as “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as nature is concerned. In the North Bay, we're blessed to have an amazing natural playground in our backyard, and I try to explore it every chance I get.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: I always knew I wanted to pursue a profession where I could serve the public.
#1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: Being content and enlightened. It wouldn't hurt to be in a financial position to be able to retire.
First job: My first job was when I was in high school, working at Starbucks.Social media you most use: Twitter. I don't use social media all that much, but I use it just enough to keep my credential as a Millennial.
Favorite book: “Primary Colors” by Joe Klein. It's a roman Ã clef exploring early 1990s politics that starts with a multi-paragraph description of handshaking technique. What more could you ask for?
Favorite movie: “Once Upon a Time in the West.” I'm fully aware the film has about as much redeeming social value as reality television, but I'm still a sucker for a Sergio Leone spaghetti western.
Favorite App: YouTube. From the banal to the profound, it never ceases to amaze me what people post.
Favorite after-work drink: I'm generally a teetotaler, but I do enjoy an occasional margarita with friends at La Casa Restaurant in Sonoma.
Last vacation: My last vacation was to beautiful San Diego. With so much to do in California, I find most of my vacations take place in some corner of the state. San Diego is one of my favorite places, and I make sure to get down there every few months.
What does your mom or dad brag most about you?
I think my parents focus on the fact that I'm an attorney when talking to friends about what I do, since most people don't really understand what my job entails.