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Home > Rochelle Harry Swanson
Rochelle Harry Swanson

Rochelle Harry  Swanson

Councilmember, City of Davis
Principal/Owner, RHS Consulting
Year Graduated: 2003

Undergraduate: UC Davis
Major: Political Science


Rochelle Harry Swanson, '03, has nurtured a lifelong love of politics. She imagined herself, if she ever entered, working on policy or campaigns.

But that changed when three up-and-coming politically engaged Davis residents asked her to run for city council in 2010. They told her, she says, that her business background would help the city dig out from the Great Recession, and her mediation skills could balance the council's contentious personal dynamics.

Over the next two days, Swanson called about 60 people, including business owners, state legislators and neighbors, to ask for their support. "Within four days, my phone was blowing up with text messages from people saying, 'I'm hearing rumors,'" Swanson says. "If it's true, you've got my endorsement and a contribution. In 90 days, I went from 'No, I don't think so,' to winning my first election."

Making the decision to run was not easy for Swanson, who has since won reelection. Public office and a professional career do not always co-exist easily. A Davis resident since 1993 when she attended the university as an undergraduate political science major, she is raising her three sons there. For five years before being elected, she was heavily involved in community service, leading a fundraising effort to build a new high school stadium.  

"I was raised with the core belief by my paternal grandfather that you're supposed to be the change you seek in the world," she says. "You certainly can't do that sitting behind your computer. Find the people who can do it and if you can't, then you have to step up and do it yourself."

A degree from McGeorge School of Law provided a solid foundation for being on city council. "Some people get in your face and they yell at you," Swanson says of serving the city. "They'll question why you've taken a position. They'll question your intelligence. Law school helped me to prepare for being able to stand strong in the face of that as well as back up my position."

Swanson started developing her business resume at McGeorge. An evening student and single mom, she worked as a crime victim counselor at the Institute for Administrative Justice on the McGeorge campus.

She envisioned herself practicing criminal law and being an advocate for the voiceless. But criminal law and litigation weren't good fits. Instead, she discovered that she loved negotiation, mediation and property law.

Partway through school, she received a job offer to work for the telecom industry. She debated whether to drop out, but her dean persuaded her that McGeorge would work around her needs, allowing her to fit classes into her schedule when she could.  

Swanson became a zoning manager on a project for a major telecom company. After it ended, more jobs came and soon she started her own company, RHS Consulting, helping telecom companies negotiate the permitting process to build cell phone towers or erect antennas on existing towers, as well as other government relations work.

After a brief hiatus during Swanson's first term in office, she has resumed her consulting business. Combining her experience in government relations and city council, she is now pursuing her passion for agricultural technology and sustainable food policy both professionally and publicly. Since May 2016, Swanson has been working as a part-time attorney for select clients.

As a city councilmember, she has focused much of her energy on improving Davis's economy and transforming the city's anti-business reputation.

"One of the more rewarding things is taking the charge to improve the reputation of our community as far as being open and engaged within the region," she says.

Swanson received a Women Who Mean Business Award in 2014 from the Sacramento Business Journal.

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