“I’m a realist and understand there is more trouble ahead,” she concedes. “But you have to push and strive every day to try and effect change. We have young people to care for and such great opportunities for success for future generations. I just want to make a difference here in Orange County and in this state. That’s my job.”
In fact, many suggest that the OCBC’s success is the result of what Dunn calls her “rock star” board of directors. The business council has 250 members, or “investors,” and an annual operating budget of $3 million. But it is the 50-member board, a who’s who of corporate Orange County, that gives the OCBC an enviable advantage in tackling issues and moving pro-business policies. Current board members include The Irvine Co., AT&T, Kaiser Permanente, UPS, Toshiba America Information Systems, Cox, Lennar Homes, Wells Fargo, The Disneyland Resort, Allergan, Bank of America, Chevron, Goodwill Orange County, Porter Novelli and Experian.
“The OCBC is really the story of Orange County,” says Dr. Wallace Walrod, the group’s vice president of economic development and research, and a staff member almost since the OCBC was formed in the mid ’90s. “We have companies here for the long term. They can’t pick up and move. They are vested here. They not only want to shape the landscape today, they have an enlightened self interest in what Orange County will look like in 50 years. So they are willing to think big. It’s one of the problems we have elsewhere in the state. There are not enough long-term thinkers, particularly in Sacramento.”
Kate Klimow, a colleague of Walrod’s and vice president of government and community affairs, agrees that the OCBC’s success is a reflection of Orange County’s emergence as a major economic center. “Our business community has an appreciation of where we have been and, most importantly, what it takes to stay relevant and competitive. This is a community of entrepreneurs, whether it’s Broadcom, First American or the surf industry. We are surrounded by innovators, and we simply reflect that spirit here at the business council. We want to protect this unique market.”
Dunn is a renowned vocalist in her private life (she calls it her other job), and it has been her ability to dance around being tagged with a partisan label that has been her most impressive performance. It would be easy in a community like this, with deep conservative Republican roots, to play to the majority for resources and support. But Dunn has avoided the political pothole so far and remained true to her “business first” marching orders.