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A Public Champion

In Focus
NAME:Ana M Lasso
COMPANY:California Department of General Services
LOCATION:Sacramento, US
Having once been a customer of the department she now leads, Ana M Lasso is redefining what it means for the private sector to work with the California government as Director of the Department of General Services.

As a child growing up in inner-city Los Angeles, Ana M Lasso had little experience beyond the built-up urban environment she called home. But in 1984, at the age of seven, she gained a glimpse of the area’s potential when it hosted the Olympic Games, with the hub of the games, Exposition Park, not far from her neighborhood.

“Having the opportunity to see the Olympics descend on Los Angeles, and growing up close to Exposition Park, gave me the chance to see what could be of a city when you have a multicultural, global event that brings in thriving economics. Not only from the local economy but from an international level,” Lasso tells The CEO Magazine.

The Olympic experience had such an impact on Lasso that she went on to pursue architecture and urban planning at university. She earned a bachelor’s degree, focusing on world arts, cultures and Chicano studies from the University of California, Los Angeles before achieving her master’s in City Planning and an Urban Design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It was during my Chicano undergraduate studies that I really began to learn about the impacts of the built environment and policy,” explains Lasso, who now heads up the California Department of General Services (DGS). “I saw how the government can really shape the experience one has in cities.”

“It’s a fine balance; I need to give our employees the lens of the customer and also help our customers understand that those rules and procedures are there for a reason.”

It was this realization that pushed her to pursue a career in the public sector, after a short stint in the private sector. As manager of the Joint Use Development Program for the Los Angeles Unified School District, she developed community partnerships and capital improvement projects to improve the city’s public school service and facilities.

From there, she served as the General Manager of Exposition Park, the very same park that had such an influence on her as a child. In that capacity, she led over US$1 billion of investment in construction across the 65-hectare, government-owned park.

Then, she went on to make a name for herself representing the state of California in real estate negotiations to secure the home of Los Angeles Football Club, the BMO Stadium (formerly known as the Banc of California Stadium) and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art at Exposition Park.

In 2021, she was appointed Director of the DGS, a department that is described as the state’s business manager for its role in providing a variety of services to state agencies such as procurement, acquisition solutions, real estate management, environmentally friendly transport and funding to build state schools. It also has a control and oversight capacity to safeguard the interests of the state.

A Public Calling

“Public service has definitely been a calling. It’s been very exciting to be able to serve my community, not just in Southern California, but at the state level,” Lasso says.

As someone who has spent her career focused on the built environment, building a career in the public sector has been a natural progression.

“The built environment is tied to policy,” Lasso explains. “We’re having conversations and discussions around ensuring local labor, the price tag, who’s going to contribute, what kind of funding resources we have available to us. Then, we ask: how can we look at the benefits? What are the opportunities and outcomes? What are the constraints?”

“Ana M Lasso of the Department of General Services in California exemplifies leadership through her unwavering integrity and authenticity. Her genuine care for her team is not just a trait, but a daily practice, reflecting in the consistent success of her work.” – Wendy Cohen, President/CEO, Kitchell Corporation


These questions are interesting to Lasso, especially as someone who has participated in many public and private partnerships. She is very familiar with the customer experience aspect of working with the state government of California.

“Whether I was in real estate development or working at the LA school district and taking school plans for approval at the division of state architect, or my time in the private sector… somehow, I had always been a customer of DGS,” she says. “But never did I think of myself as an expert on any one of the more than 20 business practices that we offer.”

However, Lasso decided to take a risk and take on a leadership position.

“It was a leap of faith to say that I could put myself in the role of someone who’s leading a department, a control agency that I’ve been a customer of, and sometimes I’ve been frustrated with,” she said.

Modernizing California State

One of the many challenges Lasso faces is that DGS’ customers see the department as slow and expensive, something she had had experience with when she was a customer herself. So it was a humbling experience to join the team and understand all that goes on behind the scenes.

“When you realize everything that goes on to make everything happen, to protect the state and to ensure that there’s equity and that we’re following the statute, you realize why it might take some time,” Lasso admits. “It’s a fine balance; I need to give our employees the lens of the customer and also help our customers understand that those rules and procedures are there for a reason.”

“We want to take those small businesses and help them grow.”

Sometimes, it’s just a question of modernizing the way the DGS does things. Other times, it’s about bringing innovation to tackle challenges that haven’t been addressed before.

“It’s risky when you go back to the other side of the table with whom you’re negotiating with to say, we need to come up with new products that have never been developed before because typically, it’s not the government that is driving innovation,” Lasso says.

“Usually, we buy that from the private sector. So to have the government play a role in shaping these products is really different.”

Small Business and Sustainability

Strong partnerships are required for such discussions; DGS works closely with a handful of large groups, such as the Capitol Area Development Authority, a joint authority between the State of California and the City of Sacramento, and real estate and construction business Kitchell.

Something Lasso is passionate about improving is California’s small businesses. The DGS is the body that certifies small businesses, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it put together an internal small business advisory board and a supplier diversity program.

The DGS is focused on ensuring diversity, equity and inclusivity among suppliers, allowing smaller firms to get their foot in the door of government contracts, whether they’re small first-time real estate developers or wholesale suppliers of face masks.

“We want to take those small businesses and help them grow,” Lasso explains.

“Working with the California Department of General Services is a highly effective and collaborative experience. It supports creative ideas, further innovative solutions and demonstrates a deep commitment to excellence in public service, sustainable practices and making Sacramento better than ever.” – Danielle Foster, Executive Director, Capitol Area Development Authority


But Lasso’s real north star is sustainability, and DGS is committed to just that in every aspect, from real estate assets to construction to energy usage.

“Starting with real estate, we are maximizing them for the greatest use and repurposing them as affordable housing that is needed in some of our largest cities. When it comes to building, we’re making sure that the footprints we design are modern, net zero energy and also creating jobs around maintaining those buildings,” Lasso enthuses.

“Everything we do at DGS is built to meet our sustainability goals for California.”

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