More Than a First Lady, California Governor's Wife Is His Top Aide

November 13, 2013

Anyone who spends time with Gov. Jerry Brown is familiar with his penchant for referring to philosophers, Latin or an obscure tome he has recently read, often in the same sentence. A speaker who uses what he deems an imprecise word should be prepared to listen to a soliloquy on its meaning.

Do not expect his wife to do the same.

Anne Gust Brown, petite and polished, speaks with the directness of someone who has little patience for theoretical colloquiums. She is the first person to whom advisers turn if they need to anticipate the long list of questions the governor is likely to pepper them with. After more than 20 years as his partner — and nearly a decade as his top aide — she is one of the few people who can predict his often unpredictable thinking. And she is the one most likely to tell the governor it is time to end the Socratic seminar and make a decision.

“I would say sometimes he’s exhausting,” Ms. Gust Brown said in a courtyard just outside the governor’s office. “Sometimes I have to foist him onto other people and say, you go talk to someone else about that, because he has a sort of insatiable appetite about these things.”

From the first day her husband, a Democrat, began his third term as governor in 2011, Ms. Gust Brown has occupied an office just around the corner from his. And as he decides whether to run for re-election next year — as many expect he will — no one’s counsel will be more highly valued than hers.

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