Founded in 2017 by Rick Jacobs with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Accelerator for America seeks to scale and replicate local solutions to economic insecurity across the country. We support initiatives that connect people with existing jobs, create new opportunities and foster infrastructure development.
We are led by an Advisory Council consisting of mayors and leaders from the labor, business and non-profit sectors. Currently, our work is conducted in two specific verticals: Transit & Infrastructure and Economic Development.
We are the R&D arm of cities and mayors. We are a do tank, not a think tank.
President & CEO
Rick’s career as a Fortune 500, government and non-profit executive underscores the Accelerator’s mission to bridge the public and private sectors to connect people with fulfilling work. He served as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Deputy Chief of Staff and separately founded and is a board member of the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, which in the past three years has raised $32 million to modernize government and support innovative strategies to connect youth with jobs and revitalize communities. After working at the Mayor’s office, Rick ran the successful Measure M campaign which generates $120 billion for construction and operations.
Rick founded and was Chair of the national advocacy group Courage Campaign and founded and was CEO of Newstar, Inc., which worked in Russia with companies like Lockheed and Marriott. He was Vice President and Assistant to Occidental Petroleum founder and Chairman/CEO Dr. Armand Hammer. He is a graduate of Georgetown University.
Yusef brings to the Accelerator deep experience in launching outcome-oriented non-profits and driving them to achieve lasting national impact. He is a communications and policy strategist who counsels publicly traded companies, non-profits, and high-profile individuals.
He served as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Director of Communications and currently leads a consulting practice. In 2016, he played a leading role in the passage of Measure M, L.A. County’s $120 billion infrastructure initiative.
Yusef has played senior roles in the administrations of the Governor of California, California State Controller and a previous L.A. Mayor, and has presidential, statewide and local campaign experience on both coasts. His work extends across the United States and to Europe, Asia and South America. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from NYU.
Director of Operations
Yoomee is the Director of Operations for Accelerator for America. She works directly with the CEO on administrative, operational and personnel matters to ensure that the Accelerator is fulfilling its mission to improve people’s lives in communities across the country by creating national change from the bottom up.
Prior to joining the team at Accelerator, Yoomee worked for Mayor Eric Garcetti in various capacities and before that as a field representative for then Congressman Xavier Becerra. Yoomee was born and raised in Los Angeles. She attended the University of California, Irvine and earned a bachelor of arts in political science.
Director of Economic Development and Opportunity Zones
Aaron is the Director of Economic Development & Opportunity Zones at Accelerator for America. He’s spent the majority of his career in investment banking, where he traded equity derivatives and facilitated equity transactions. More recently, he worked in middle-market private equity before pivoting into the public sector, first as a fellow in the California Senate and now with the Accelerator. He’s a graduate of Harvard College and received his MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Chief of Staff
Philip comes to the Accelerator by way of the James Smith for Governor (SC) campaign to serve as Chief of Staff. An experienced political operative, he recently served as the Chief of Staff for the South Carolina Democratic Party and has managed several campaigns and political operations during his career. In his spare time, he can often be found rock climbing, typically in the desert. He has a B.A. in Sustainable Development from Columbia University in the City of New York and lives with his wife in Los Angeles.
New Projects & Development Manager
Justin is the New Projects & Development Manager at Accelerator for America where he is responsible for sourcing new opportunities and fundraising. He has been with the Accelerator since its founding. Justin was formerly at Creative Artists Agency, where he worked across all departments to maximize value, generate revenue and oversee business development for the agency’s most prolific and entrepreneurial clients. He has a B.A. in Government and International Politics from Wesleyan University.
Jeremy works as part of the Accelerator’s communications team. He previously worked in California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Los Angeles office. He earned his B.A. in Political Science, with a concentration in American Politics from UCLA.
Assistant to the CEO
Emily joined the Accelerator team in 2018. Emily graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Political Science and a concentration in American Politics. Before starting at Accelerator for America, Emily interned under Congresswoman Susan Davis as a Legislative Intern. After graduating, Emily worked as a Legal Secretary until August 2018 when she came on board as Accelerator’s scheduler.
Evan serves as an advisor and strategist for city engagement and outreach. Evan has a background in infrastructure advocacy and intergovernmental affairs having served as the Director of National Outreach and Policy Advisor for Infrastructure Week, where he helped build a coalition of over 400 companies and organizations elevating infrastructure issues, and as a political appointee in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Evan has played critical roles on national and local campaigns and began his professional experience in the Legislative Affairs Office of Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. He holds a degree in Economics from the University of Delaware where he worked as a Fellow at the Institute of Public Policy.
Mayor of Columbia, SC
Since being elected mayor in a record turnout election, Mayor Steve Benjamin has made it his mission to make Columbia the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America. He also serves as a Vice President of the US Conference of Mayors and as Chairman for Municipal Bonds for America. He helped secure billions of dollars in new capital investment for Columbia and his intense focus on job creation helped cut unemployment in the metro area by roughly half.
He also serves as Vice President and Incoming President of the US Conference of Mayors and is Chairman for Municipal Bonds for America.
In 2009, he drew national attention by representing prominent radio host Tom Joyner and securing a pardon for Joyner's great uncles wrongfully convicted and executed for the killing of a Confederate veteran in 1913.
Angela Glover Blackwell
Angela Glover Blackwell started PolicyLink in 1999, and the organization has since gained national prominence in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, particularly in the areas of health, housing, transportation, and infrastructure. A member of numerous boards, she advises the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve as a member of its Community Advisory Council.
Previously, Blackwell served as Senior Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation and was a partner at a nationally known public interest law firm. She graduated from Howard University and the UC Berkeley School of Law.
Mayor of South Bend, IN
Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana’s fourth-largest city.
A Rhodes Scholar, he holds degrees from Oxford and Harvard Universities. He was the Democratic nominee for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010 against incumbent Richard Mourdock. Previously he was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company where he worked in energy, retail, economic development, and logistics.
Elected in 2011 at the age of 29, he is one of America’s youngest mayors of a city with over 100,000 residents. A lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he spent most of 2014 leave from the office while deployed to Afghanistan.
James T. Callahan
General President, International Union of Operating Engineers
James T. Callahan is the General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), which represents 400,000 operating engineers working as heavy equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors in the construction industry, and stationary engineers, who work in operations and maintenance in building and industrial complexes. IUOE also represents nurses and other health workers, petrochemical workers and public employees.
Callahan is a 33-year member and third generation operating engineer. He was an integral part of the team that worked on the World Trade Center site after the 1993 terrorist bombing there and was one of the many operating engineers who responded immediately to the 9/11 attacks and stayed on to work through the entire recovery effort.
Mayor, Cincinnati, Ohio
Mr. Cranley is Cincinnati’s 69th Mayor. Since taking office in late 2013, John has helped bring more than 6,100 new jobs to Cincinnati; lobbied for three police recruit classes which added 97 officers, the first new hires in six years; added 46 firefighters, which effectively ended “brownouts” in the Fire Department; resolved the city’s pension crisis; approved a multi-year plan to repave and repair deteriorating roads; and drafted a major anti-poverty program, the Hand Up Initiative. Mr. Cranley was a lead negotiator for the historic Collaborative Agreement, which has helped improve race relations in the city. John is the co-founder of the Ohio Innocence Project, which has exonerated more than 20 people who were wrongfully imprisoned. John earned degrees from John Carroll University, Harvard Law School and Harvard Divinity School.
President, Echoing Green
Cheryl Dorsey is the president of Echoing Green, a global organization unleashing next generation talent to solve the world’s biggest problems. A social entrepreneur herself, Cheryl received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1992 to help launch The Family Van, a community-based mobile health unit in Boston. Cheryl has served in two presidential administrations and serves on several boards including the SEED Foundation, The Bridgespan Group and, previously, the Harvard Board of Overseers. She has received numerous awards, including the Pfizer Roerig History of Medicine Award, the Robert Kennedy Distinguished Public Service Award, and the Manual C. Carballo Memorial Prize.
Cheryl was named one of "America's Best Leaders" by US News & World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School and one of The Nonprofit Times' "Power and Influence Top 50." She has a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and her Master's in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School.
Founder & CEO, Dollar Shave Club
Michael Dubin is CEO of Dollar Shave Club, which he co-founded in 2011 with his own money and an investment from a start-up incubator. The company was sold to Unilever in 2016 for a reported $1 billion. After starting his career as producer at MSNBC, he began working for Time, Inc. creating content for major advertisers including Gatorade, Nike and Nintendo, and later worked in video marketing for companies including Ford, Capital One and Gillette.
Dubin studied with the improvisational comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade for 8 years, and combined this training with his digital marketing background to launch Dollar Shave Club with an innovative online video. He is a graduate of Emory College.
Eric Garcetti (Chair)
Mayor of Los Angeles, CA
Eric Garcetti was re-elected as Mayor of Los Angeles with a record 81.5% of the vote. He has led unprecedented job growth in L.A. by embracing innovation, raising the minimum wage, lowering business taxes, and leading the $120 billion Measure M, the nation's largest local infrastructure program. He spearheaded L.A.'s winning bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Garcetti was elected four times by his peers to serve as City Council President, and his Council District was nationally-noted for its revitalization during his tenure. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Columbia University and studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and the London School of Economics. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy reserve.
Lt. Governor, Washington
Habib was elected Lt. Governor of Washington in November 2016 at age 35. He previously represented east King County in both houses of the State legislature.
As Lt. Governor, he presides over the Senate, serves as acting-Governor, and maintains a portfolio of key issues including Veteran and Disability Employment, Access to Higher Education and Creating a College-Going Culture, and Economic Development, Trade, and International Relations.
A three-time cancer survivor, Habib has been fully blind since age eight. He is a graduate of Columbia University, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School.
Co-Founder, the New Localism
Bruce Katz is, with Jeremy Nowak, the Co-Founder of New Localism Advisors and the co-author of The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism. Katz founded the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, where he most recently served as the Institution’s Centennial Scholar. Before joining Brookings, Katz served as chief of staff to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and was the senior counsel and then staff director for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs.
Gregory A. Kelly
President and CEO, WSP USA
Gregory A. Kelly, P.E., is a member of WSP’s senior executive team responsible for global operations, policy and direction for an engineering and professional services organization of approximately 36,000 employees in more than 500 offices in 40 countries.
As president and chief executive officer of the USA region of WSP, formerly WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, Greg directs the operations of the firm and oversees a workforce of more than 7,000 employees and nearly US$2 billion in annual revenue. The firm partners with clients on the development of infrastructure including buildings, transportation, energy, water and environmental projects. During its 132-year history, the firm has planned, designed and helped deliver significant infrastructure projects, including bridges, tunnels, transit systems, highways, airports, buildings, stadiums and energy storage facilities.
Active in the infrastructure services industry, Greg frequently speaks on engineering and construction issues and participates on the executive boards of many leading industry organizations. He testified before Congressional committees on public-private partnerships in 2013 and 2014, gave the keynote address at a 2014 conference on American infrastructure at the Brookings Institution, and participated in a National League of Cities conference at the White House in March 2015, where he took part in a discussion of increasing investment in U.S. infrastructure. In 2015 Greg presented the keynote address at KPMG's 16th Global Building, Construction & Real Estate Conference held in Chicago.
Additionally, he was elected to the National Academy of Construction in 2014 and is a member of The Moles, one of the most prestigious organizations for the heavy construction industry. He is on the executive committee of the Design Professionals Coalition and is a Board Member of the Association for the Improvement of American Infrastructure (AIAI).
Greg has degrees from Temple University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is a registered professional engineer in several states.
General President, United Brotherhood of Carpenters
Doug McCarron has served since 1995 as General President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, representing some 500,000 building trades and forest products workers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Referred to by Business Week as a “new breed of labor leader,” McCarron has worked closely with other construction industry leaders to encourage national cooperation to create jobs in a rapidly changing economy.
McCarron implemented the most extensive restructuring in the union’s more than 135-year history, moving the organization to a regional structure that matches modern construction markets. He and his leadership team were re-elected to five-year terms in 2000, 2005, 2010 and most recently in 2015.
Swati Mylavarapu runs Incite.org, which invests in early stage technology entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. Through Incite Ventures, she invests in technology entrepreneurs who are building businesses that also address important social or environmental issues. Through Incite Labs, a foundation, she makes grants to and invests in social entrepreneurs starting movements for catalytic social and environmental change.
She was a Partner on the venture capital team at Kleiner Perkins, where she focused on consumer digital and hardware investments. Previously, Swati built the international business and product marketing efforts at Square. She earned her AB at Harvard and holds MPhil in Economic History from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
Steve Robinson has more than 40 years of experience in multiple industries where he has been an integral participant in more than 50 operational transformation efforts in the manufacturing, retail, hospitality, distribution, telecommunications, food service, day care, ready mix, and computer industries. Mr. Robinson’s entrepreneurial experience includes being the Founder and Chief Executive of six ventures - Thirsty’s, Quenchers and Surf City Grill fast food chains; The World POG Federation, creators of the POG’s children games, Data Systems, CLEAR, Pillars for Life, and most recently Brewery X.
Mr. Robinson currently sits on the following boards: The Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandies, Cedars Sinai Board of Governors, Operation Progress, Jewish Graduate Student Initiative, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Foundation, Redondo Beach Police Foundation, 77th street Police Foundation, Community Safety Services, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles Advisory Board, Crown Family Philanthropies, The Watts Bears, Pillars for Life, and PragerU.
Mr. Robinson is a Reserve Police Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department and The Hawthorne Police Department.
Mr. Robinson is a LEAN certified specialist, Certified Six Sigma Black Belt, Certified Project Manager and Certified Toyota Production System (TPS) Practitioner. He is an active member of the Young Presidents’ Gold Organization.
With his wife Janet Crown they have five children, ages 13, 18, 19, 25 and 27
President and CEO of HNTB
Rob Slimp oversees the strategic direction of HNTB Corporation, a 104-year old employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm with over $1 billion in annual revenue and 60 offices across the United States. HNTB provides engineering and architecture services to transportation markets; and is a national leader working with state departments of transportation, as well as tolling, aviation, transit and rail clients.
An engineer by training, Slimp is deeply engaged in HNTB's work to prepare young people for careers in engineering, architecture and planning, including the SPARK partnership with Chicago and Los Angeles public schools. He earned his Bachelor of Science, civil engineering, from Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College
City Clerk of Chicago
Anna Valencia was sworn-in as City Clerk of Chicago on January 25, 2017 overseeing one of the largest offices in the City serving 1.2 million Chicagoans and generating more than $130 million annually.
As City Clerk, Valencia has focused on making government accessible to all Chicagoans. Under Valencia’s leadership, the Office of the City Clerk has made it a priority to find new and innovative ways to bring services directly to residents, increase civic engagement, improve inefficiencies and collaborate across government in the private and public sectors.
Valencia has also been charged with implementing the Municipal ID program which will roll out later this year. Available to all Chicago residents, this government-issued ID will combine access to government and city services into one card.
Prior to becoming Clerk, Valencia served as the second woman and first Latina to run Mayor Emanuel’s Legislative Counsel and Government Affairs (LCGA) where she spearheaded the passage of police accountability reform, the modernization of the CTA’s Red and Purple lines, the stabilization of pension funds and creation of the City’s legal fund that assists immigrants and refugees threatened with deportation.
Valencia has also worked as an Illinois political professional in several positions including, serving as Campaign Manager for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s re-election campaign, Senior Advisor for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaign, Deputy Director of the Illinois Senate Democratic Victory Fund, a Communications Staffer for State Senate President John Cullerton, and Field Director for both Mike Quigley for Congress (IL-05) and Gary Peters for Congress (MI-09).
In 2017, Chicago Magazine listed Valencia as an Emerging Power Player highlighting her as a rising star in Chicago politics. Valencia has also been awarded Negocios Nows’ 40 under 40 for her work as part of the next generation of Latina leaders.
Valencia earned her degree in International Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She currently resides in the West Town neighborhood with her husband and dog.
Mayor of Dayton, OH
Mayor Nan Whaley was elected by Dayton voters in 2013, following two City Commission terms. Originally from Indiana, Mayor Nan Whaley attended the University of Dayton and has lived in Dayton ever since. Mayor Whaley is passionate about moving Dayton forward in the realms of public service, including excellent customer service, educational opportunities and workforce development--especially in manufacturing industries.