February 2014 Steering Committee Member Highlight: Sterling McHale

As a native San Diegan, Sterling McHale is familiar with many of the challenges facing our region. Whether it's water, transportation, or housing, Sterling strives to make a lasting impact in his community through meaningful service. After learning about Equinox Center, he jumped at the opportunity to get involved with Leaders 2020, a program that caught his eye because of its balanced approach to advancing solutions that are beneficial to both the local environment and economy. 

Flash-forward a couple of years, and Sterling is now the chair of our Leaders 2020 Steering Committee and works as a policy adviser to County Supervisor Ron Roberts. In his capacity as chair, Sterling has hit the ground running in 2014, proposing ideas for how Leaders 2020 can be more effective in the new year. Read his full Q&A below to learn more about Sterling and see what he has in store for 2014. 

Q&A with Sterling


Q: Why did you join Leaders 2020?

A:  Initially, I became interested in Equinox Center, the parent organization for Leaders 2020, when it released its first Dashboard. Presented in conjunction with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., it was one of the first times I saw a local effort aligning environmental and economic interests in order to move our region forward. I inquired as to how I could get involved, and Leaders 2020 was the answer.  

 Leaders 2020 is a way for people to engage in ideas and policies that drive San Diego to be a greater region. It also has a specific focus on promoting the attributes that millennials and young leaders have to offer.  How could I not get involved with something like that? 

Q: What is your current job, and what are the most important roles that you play there?

A:  For more than a year, I have served as a policy adviser for Supervisor Ron Roberts, at the County of San Diego. I am fortunate to advise Supervisor Roberts on policy decisions and assist him in generating legislation that helps residents and businesses within our county. I particularly enjoy policies regarding transportation, the environment, housing, veterans, homelessness, resources, water, economic development, and good governance. Additionally, I get to work closely with great community and industry partners. 

Q: How does your current job prepare you to be an effective Leaders 2020 member?

A: Being a policy adviser affords me a unique opportunity to help people by working with the policy-makers in our community.  I think it is important that Leaders 2020 members be in such roles. Additionally, my job allows me to influence many conversations about the future of our region, bringing a Leaders 2020 perspective to those conversations, and bringing those conversations to Leaders 2020. 

Q: How did your background influence what you do now?

A: Many influences in my early life – family, church, Boy Scouts, etc. – stressed the importance of serving others. I knew I wanted a career that helped people, but didn’t know how I would do that. Another major influence was copious amounts of readings in philosophy and theology, and about early American leaders. In college, I decided that public policy and good governance are among the best opportunities to make substantial, long-lasting, and positive changes for people in the world. In the end, the best policy is useless if it doesn’t have the votes it needs from policy-makers, so I went to work for the policy-makers.

Q: What are San Diego's pressing environmental and economic challenges that you hope to address in your career?

A: The list of those challenges seems to keep growing without end, so how about I just choose the one that has always been – and will forever be – a challenge for San Diego, and many other places around the world: Water. Water. Water. 

Q: What do you do when you're not working?

A: From hiking to attending farmers markets, I try to stay active and take advantage of what San Diego has to offer, usually joined by family and friends. You can find me spending a lot of time in the water – surfing, swimming, skiing – or out biking, camping, etc. The opportunities for new experiences seem to be limitless, so whether it’s volunteering with a nonprofit or going to the symphony, I like trying and learning about new things.

Q: Do you have any goals/upcoming projects for this year?

A: Well, I’m getting married this month, so the primary focus ahead is my first year as a husband.  Another top focus is the future of Leaders 2020, where we are heading, and how we will get there.  

Q: Do you have any ideas to improve the effectiveness of Leaders 2020?

A: Since Leaders 2020 began, we have identified multiple capacities in which we excel.  Part of improving our effectiveness will be narrowing those capacities to our core, ongoing functions and maximizing their utility. As with any organization like ours, increasing membership and notoriety will play a role as well.