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John Whitehurst, chief strategist at BMWL and Partners and guitar enthusiast, breaking for a jam session at his office in Oakland.

From Jerry Brown to Willie Brown, and from Supervisor Otto Lee in Santa Clara County to Supervisor Catherine Stefani in San Francisco, John Whitehurst has helped tell their stories. The chief strategist has led more than 200 public affairs, outreach or communications campaigns over the last three decades.

Since heading west by way of Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential run, there’s hardly a corner of the Bay Area political scene that Whitehurst hasn’t touched. He launched Whitehurst Campaigns in 1990, making a splash with Jerry Brown’s successful 1999 mayoral run in Oakland. Even as Whitehurst’s star ascended, the decidedly less sexy ballot campaigns for infrastructure projects often moved him most. “I did the first earthquake safety bond in San Francisco for unreinforced masonry buildings,” he says. “Sounds nerdy, but it was super important.”