In 1999, Rob Feckner was the newest (and quietest) member of the CalPERS Board of Administration. Twenty-four years later, he retires his post as a voice of wisdom.
Feckner has served on the board longer than any member in CalPERS’ 91-year history. He was board president for 13 years, in addition to serving as vice president and chair of multiple committees. He officially retired January 15.
Although he claims he wasn’t always the smartest person in the room, Feckner attributes his success to good listening and taking advantage of educational opportunities.
Even now, as he enjoys retirement and spends more time with his family, he insists he’s always a phone call away.
He’s not going away as quietly as he arrived.
The Path to Leadership
As a 19-year-old living in Napa County, Feckner drove a school bus between attending classes at the local community college so he could free up his evenings to help raise his younger brother.
He later became an instructional assistant for children with special needs, then landed a full-time job in the maintenance department of the Napa Valley Unified School District. When a local leadership position with the California School Employees Association (CSEA) opened, Feckner went for it and was elected. Not long after, the CalPERS Board of Administration had a vacancy, and thanks in part to the encouragement of a CSEA colleague, Feckner ran and was elected.
Now as he steps down from the board, he leaves behind an unmatched legacy of service.
When Feckner, who describes himself as a blue-collar man, found himself surrounded by colleagues who’d attended Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and other Ivy League schools, he initially felt intimidated. He observed and absorbed as much as he could.
“One day in 1999, then-CEO Jim Burton took me to lunch and said, ‘I’ve got to tell you, the staff has been talking, and it seems you don’t talk much.’” Feckner recalls his response: “’I need to learn and listen before I speak. I don’t know everything—I should be paying attention.’”
Feckner, now 65, navigated the first few years of his then-new role with a lot of listening, watching people and how they handled themselves, and “building my confidence.”
“I also availed myself of every educational opportunity I could,” says Feckner, who took classes at the University of California, Berkeley, Fiduciary College at Stanford Law School, and the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Program.
His Proudest Moments
When asked about his top accomplishments, Feckner doesn’t miss a beat. “Hiring Marcie Frost as CEO in 2016 was one of my biggest and best days,” he says. “I think she’s a great fit and she’s doing great for the organization.”
Helping to enact gift limits on board members and team members that are stricter than the state standards is another proud accomplishment.
As far as the future, Feckner is excited by the direction of the CalPERS Board. “There’s an open and honest collegiality among the executive staff and board, which allows them to sit and talk about things, to brainstorm, confident that what is talked about is confidential.”
On one hand, Feckner is concerned that because he’s been with CalPERS longer than any other board member or executive staff member, his departure will create a gap in institutional knowledge. But he sees the change in board membership as an opportunity to build more institutional knowledge. Besides, after his term on the CalPERS Board officially ends, he’ll remain reachable via his personal cell phone and email.
“I’ve spent 24 years on the CalPERS Board,” says Feckner. “I want the best for CalPERS. If I can help, I’m happy to.”
As he transitions away from his role at CalPERS, he’ll remain involved in nonprofit boards, through his church where he’s an elder, and being “Papa” to his seven-year-old grandson Charlie.
And as he looks back at some of his greatest learning moments, it’s the quest for knowledge, not the knowledge itself, that best served him.
“It wasn’t my job to know the answer, but it was my job to know where to go for the answer,” he says. “And I did that by building relationships in and outside the building, so that when I was asked a question, I could call them.”
After Feckner’s final board meeting in November 2022 at CalPERS’ Sacramento headquarters, the organization coined the “Feckner Auditorium” in his name.
Thank you for your dedicated service, Mr. Feckner.