John Kabateck took an entrepreneurial leap in July, launching his own public affairs firms after stepping down as the longtime executive director of the California chapter of National Federation of Independent Business. Now operating as a team of one, Kabateck immediately made a name for his new venture by representing restaurant owners in this year’s minimum wage fight at City Hall.

“After 25 years in Sacramento, I’ve long held the belief that we can do a better job of making sure real Californians are getting their voices heard. We’re not doing that early or locally enough. Advocacy organizations can be hamstrung by time and budgets. I left NFIB because I felt strongly about this, but my very role made it tough for me to jump out and do this with precision and attention.”

What issues are you working on right now?

“We need to tell policymakers and voters how a property tax affects the small-business owner and their customers, how a fuel mandate could impact a farmer or soccer mom on a limited income, and how a minimum-wage hike done the wrong way will clobber the very employees it aims to help. Unions, lawyers and environmentalists do a very effective job of recruiting and engaging people in the process. There is no reason why job creators … can’t do the same.”

How did you contribute to the local minimum wage debate?

“I’ve worked with the California Restaurant Association to engage their members at the local and statewide levels. …We helped in Sacramento with local City Council district meetings, City Hall roundtables and getting restaurant-owner stories heard in the media. …We might not have gotten everything we wanted, but results could have been a heck of a lot worse.”

What kinds of businesses do you want to work with?

“I’m working with associations, strategy firms and companies to help small-business owners without hope and in need of a helping hand. I’ve been blessed with more than a decade helping Main Street. If I can turn up the volume to 11 for them and get better outcomes for policy, that would be a great California dream.”

The Essentials

Age: 47

Education: B.A. in English, University of Southern California

Career: Started his own public affairs company July 1. Was head of the California chapter of the National Federal of Independent Business from 2007 to June 2015. Previously served as director of external affairs for then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also was a senior adviser for former Gov. Pete Wilson in the early 1990s.

Personal: Lives in Arden Arcade with wife Maggie, daughter Lily and son Simon.

Something colleagues would be surprised to learn about you: “In addition to serving in Gov. Pete Wilson’s office administration, I served as the personal piano accompanist to the governor and Mrs. Wilson.”

Allen Young
Staff Writer
Sacramento Business Journal