Biography - Dana's Story
As a BUSD mom, community advocate, and lawyer, Dana has a well-documented history of commitment to issues that are important to Benicia families. She moved to Benicia in 1997 in large part because of the family oriented community and great schools. Since then, Dana has been deeply involved with many community organizations, including parent teacher groups, housing advocates, and other service and poliltical groups.
While her daughter Maddy was at Joe Henderson Elementary, Dana attended law school. She opened her own law firm in Benicia in 2003.
Dana was born in Oakland and lived in Berkeley until her family moved to suburban Maryland when she was three years old. With interests in writing and acting, Dana briefly studied Theater Arts at a community college before embarking on an early career in food service management. It was during that time that Dana learned the importance of quality service and products and how to deliver them. Having moved back to her native California, in the early 90’s, Dana started her own company, BusinessMinded, which focused on “babysitting” Mom and Pop operations so that proprietors could take time off, knowing that their business was being managed with care. An encounter with a lawyer who was looking someone to staff her office for a week changed Dana’s life forever. Once she got started in the legal field, she never looked back.
Dana married Steve Dean, an environmental scientist with the USEPA, in 1994. Her daughter, Madolyn, was born that same year. In 1997, the family moved to Southampton in Benicia, largely because of the family oriented lifestyle and great schools. While Mom was working as a bookkeeper and legal assistant for law firms in Richmond, Maddy began to attend KinderCare and then started at Joe Henderson School in 1999 on the very same day her mom started regular law school classes!
Dana attended John F Kennedy University School of Law under the Special Status Student program for those without college degrees, effectively testing into the law school with 90th percentile or better LSAT and CLET test scores. After interning at the Solano County District Attorney’s office, USEPA Office of Regional Counsel, and the California Attorney General’s office, Dana graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2002 and was the class speaker at graduation.
While Maddy played soccer and PAL softball, practiced piano, and started on 8 years with Benicia’s international children’s choir, VOENA, Dana expanded on her long history of community involvement, as a Joe Henderson PTG board member and Site Council Liaison, Affordable Housing Affiliation board member, and Good Neighbor Steering Committee (GNSC) spokesperson.
As GNSC’s representative, Dana became deeply involved in resolving community concerns about environmental issues related air quality generally and the local refinery more specifically. GNSC helped negotiate the City’s GNA agreement with Valero, intervened during the Title V permitting process before the CEC, and ultimately negotiated the VIP settlement agreement and amended agreement that resulted in $14 million dollars worth of additional environmental protections for Benicia.
While in law school, Dana also became involved in local politics as a member of the Solano County Democratic Central Committee. In 2008, she was elected to her third term representing District Two. In 2009, she was elected to her third term as Solano County’s representative to the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party.
Combining her interests in property law, environmental protection, and local government, Dana opened her law office in Benicia in 2003, focusing immediately on real estate and land use law, with an emphasis on litigation, land use development, and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). After starting with just Dana and a part time assistant, the firm, located in the Carquinez Building on First Street, has grown to include an associate attorney, an attorney of counsel, and four support staffers. The firm now represents neighborhood groups and project developers alike, at the city and county levels during all stages of CEQA process, and before various state agencies considering applications related to other entitlements, as well various parties (plaintiffs, defendants, buyers, sellers, etc.) in real estate litigation matters.
In 2007, having completed training through the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University, Dana began taking mediation assignments from the Solano County Superior Court, with a focus on mediating real estate and other contract disputes. Since then, Dana has obtained advanced training in Local Government and Land Use Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Dana and Maddy moved downtown in 2006 when Maddy started attending BMS. However, as her practice expanded it became more difficult for Dana to find a way to play a role to the school community. In 2008, when an unexpected opening came up on the BUSD Board of Trustees, Dana jumped at the chance to contribute in a way that took advantage of her experience.
Most recently, as a result of her demonstrated interest in heath and education, Dana was appointed to First Five Solano by the Solano County Board of Supervisors in June of 2009.