Prior to joining GSI, Yolanda served as Deputy Secretary at the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH), appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, responsible for jobs, economic growth and international trade. As the largest Agency in state government, BTH Agency oversees 13 departments and 48,000 employees, including Caltrans, DMV, CHP, among others. Her responsibilities included overseeing the California Small Business Board, the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, helped to develop the California Economic Development Partnership (CEDP) and other outreach to other state agencies, communities, local, regional and statewide organizations and entities working to promote job growth and retention throughout California. Ms. Benson served as the principal lead regarding border issues and developed strategic partnerships with Baja California and British Columbia and continues to serve on the Steering Committee of the Canada-California Strategic Innovation Partnership.
Prior to moving to the Agency, Ms. Benson served as a Deputy Legislative Secretary in the Office of Governor Schwarzenegger where she handled legislative policy for the Governor on issues regarding base realignment and closure, building standards, consumer affairs, corporate governance, economic development, housing, transportation, outsourcing, public sector labor and retirement issues, as well as international trade.
Ms. Benson’s diverse background and experience includes more than twenty years of activity in the legislative arena, public relations, governmental policy, ethnic and coalition development and grassroots advocacy. Prior to working in the Schwarzenegger Administration, Ms. Benson was a legislative advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 16,000 businesses in California. She was responsible for various policy issues regarding the protection of jobs, and the creation and retention of jobs in California, including civil litigation issues. Ms. Benson’s experience also includes a variety of positions in state government, including working for several members of the California State Legislature and as a legislative liaison for the Department of Toxic Substances Control in the California Environmental Protection Agency.
As a legislative advocate for numerous diverse organizations and companies, she was responsible for effective communication and implementation of successful strategies for numerous clients. Her understanding of both the public and private sector brings a unique perspective and understanding on how to approach issues and for “getting the job done.”
Ms. Benson serves as a board member of the several entities, including, but not limited to, the California Association for Local Economic Development, California Community Colleges-Education Development Program Advisory Council, Latino Journal, Community Resource Project, CORO, and the California Utility Diversity Council.
She was born in Utah and is the daughter of an immigrant from Mexico. She grew up in Utah and New Mexico and began community college in Arizona. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Human Resources.