GFOA Scholarship Spotlight: Talia Smith

Talia Smith received the Frank L. Greathouse Government Accounting Scholarship in 2022.

Photo of Talia Smith

Q & A with Talia

Where and what are you currently studying?

I’m getting my Master's degree in Public Policy at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. The program is two years, and I expect to graduate in spring 2023.

Why did you choose this?

I began working in local government eight years ago, as an intern in the vounty Budget office immediately after graduating college. While many of my fellow 2014 grads in the San Francisco Bay Area sought meaning and social impact in the tech-sector, I found immediate purpose working to improve the quality and transparency of public services in the County I grew up in. At the local level, I felt I was living out, and now fully appreciated the meaning of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people."

My commitment to being one of “the people” working to make our government institutions better, is what motivated me to pursue a Public Policy degree. I chose Goldman because of its reputation for quantitative-based policy analysis -- skills that I felt would serve me best in evaluating and transforming the way 21st century local government serves its people.

What government are you working or hoping to work at in the future?

I currently work in the Marin County Administrator's Office, where I have been in my current role as a Strategic Projects Manager in the Budget division for a year. Previously I worked for the City of San Rafael Public Works Department, and prior to that I worked in the same County office I do now.

What are your future career goals?

In my current role I serve as my office’s liaison to our Health and Human Services Department, working closely with their fiscal staff in analyzing how new state allocations, legislation and changing mandates will affect County programs and services. I enjoy the challenge of evaluating how a new statewide policy or program from the Governor or Legislature will be implemented at the most local level, where it will ultimately actually affect the lives of everyday Californians. Right now, our Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Departments have been analyzing the Governor’s recent CARE Court proposal, and what an expanded mental health court would look like in Marin.

This work has made me realize there are real opportunities to strengthen the feedback loops between the policymakers in Sacramento and the on-the-ground implementers within the 58 counties. I hope to continue this intergovernmental relations-type work after graduating -- creating better opportunities for co-creation and long-term support between the state and local entities in the implementation of new policies.

Which GFOA scholarship did you receive this year, and how will GFOA’s scholarship help you achieve these goals?

I was fortunate to be one of two recipients for the 2022 Frank L. Greathouse Government Accounting Scholarship. I’ll admit, prior to applying to the scholarship, Frank L. Greathouse wasn’t a household name for me. But upon learning about his legacy through this scholarship, I found I had much in personal alignment with Mr. Greathouse; most notably his commitment to improvement in our public institutions for the long-haul, and tireless resolve for excellence and ethics in government.

Like Mr. Greathouse, I too see my dedication to public service as one requiring a long-term commitment to the incremental, but steadfast pace with which our civic institutions improve. I chose to continue to work part time while in my full-time Masters program, not only because of the cost of the program -- but because I also felt like the best learning experience at a Public Policy school would be one where I maintained one foot in the door of a government institution. I am grateful for the financial assistance from this scholarship -- as it’s really allowed me to keep my employment part-time and better concentrate on my full-time studies.