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Blog Post · October 27, 2023

In Memoriam: Phil Isenberg

photo - California wildflowers at sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Phil Isenberg, former assemblymember and Sacramento mayor, was a valued supporter and trusted friend of PPIC. We are deeply sorry at the news of his death and appreciative of the myriad ways he served California as a public servant and policy leader. His tireless efforts to address the state’s many policy challenges included long-time service as a beloved member of both the PPIC Board of Directors and the PPIC Water Policy Center Advisory Council. We will greatly miss him and his contributions.

photo - Phil Isenberg

Phil’s storied career in state and local government included serving as a Sacramento city council member, mayor of Sacramento, and a member of the California Assembly. He was known for his deep expertise on a range of complex issues—from the state budget to water and resource policy. Throughout his career, he cultivated relationships with leaders across the political spectrum and understood the importance of hearing all sides of an issue. These qualities enabled him to develop practical, achievable, and meaningful solutions that had a real impact on the people of California.

Later in his career, Phil devoted himself to helping the state tackle big environmental challenges, serving as chair of the California Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force, chair of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, and first chair of the Delta Stewardship Council. He also generously volunteered his time to a wide range of organizations dedicated to improving California’s communities and environment.

Phil became a member of PPIC’s board of directors in 2013 and served until September of this year. His unrelenting focus on finding the facts and communicating them effectively helped to shape PPIC into what it is today. He was pivotal in the creation of the PPIC Water Policy Center, bringing his critical perspective to the center’s advisory council as a founding member.

Phil’s insight, his keen eye for realistic solutions, and his innate sense of what policymakers need to know improved our work immeasurably. He constantly pushed us to be better—with probing questions and a lot of humor. While he wasn’t shy about sharing constructive criticism, he deeply valued our work and the core mission of PPIC—our nonpartisan approach, our focus on the facts, and our willingness to let the policy chips fall where they may. He was an exemplary ambassador for PPIC and also a personal mentor to many of us.

Our hearts go out to Phil’s wife Marilyn Araki Isenberg. Their close partnership enabled us to also benefit from her tremendous intelligence and insight. We are deeply grateful to have known and worked with Phil. His contributions to PPIC will inform our work far into the future.