Alex Clemens Communications Strategist "…veteran California organizer and strategist…" - Politico "…longtime San Francisco political strategist…" - New York Times "…politically wired…" - San Francisco Business Times "…political insider and communications expert…" - Washington Post "...veteran California political strategist..." - Vanity Fair "...longtime media and campaign consultant..." - Los Angeles Times Alex_2024_tight-crop-trans

Alex Clemens is recognized as one of the Bay Area’s preeminent political, communications and media strategists. He has managed high-profile public challenges for leading companies, non-profits, industry groups, and a national hero. He is an accomplished crisis communications manager, lobbyist, political advisor and serial entrepreneur – founding or co-founding four local and statewide strategic communications firms.

He works exclusively through Progress Public Affairs, a women-owned strategic communications firm serving the San Francisco Bay Area.

He is married to noted journalist Priya David Clemens.

 

Alex has worked with leading Bay Area organizations and journalists to highlight announcements, breaking news, controversies and commemorations. Whether it’s announcing the largest office entitlement in San Francisco history, a milestone for the Bay Lights project, an enormous hiring challenge across the veterinary world, a new leader for the Exploratorium, or a miraculous turn of events for the Little Sisters of the Poor, Alex helps his clients create compelling narratives that capture the attention of media and public alike.

(Alex has also worked on some remarkable crisis communications challenges in his career – but for clients who would prefer their stories not appear on this page.)

Most famously, Alex represented Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger as his media manager and personal representative. In early 2009, Capt. Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles famously ditched their hopelessly crippled Airbus 320 on the Hudson River with no loss of life; the next day, Alex began his service as the family’s media representative.

Whether negotiating with national and international press, strategizing and writing for appearances before Congress, advising on book and speaker deals, or managing public appearances, Alex was at Capt. Sullenberger’s side for the next three years, helping craft the very public image of this (suddenly) very public man – while keeping some of his family life private and maintaining a semblance of normalcy for them. (Yes, he’s who he appears to be – a remarkably well-prepared, homework-doing, quiet leader who raises the standards of those around him.)

Alex has been a professional advocate for over twenty years, working in all nine Bay Area counties, in Sacramento, and in Washington DC. He has represented companies, non-profits and individuals, working on projects huge and back-yard-sized, created compelling narratives, and always seeks to find the elusive win-win.

Alioto Pier Junius Clemens

Amongst other organizations, Alex has represented the San Francisco Giants, the California Pacific Medical Center, Dolby, Sutro Tower, Visa, the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Jewish Home of San Francisco, Congregation Emanu’el, MacFarlane Partners, Safeway, the SPCA of San Francisco, Walgreens, Kilroy Realty and the San Francisco 49ers.

He hasn’t just advocated before government agencies – but has also worked on behalf of many of those agencies themselves to help shape policy, get the good word out about projects completed or contemplated, and assuage community rancor. They include the San Francisco Planning Department, the San Mateo County Transportation District, the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the Contra Costa County Transportation Authority, and more.

And some of those projects are enormously significant in their scale and scope. Alex was the lobbyist for Kilroy Realty’s Flower Mart project, helping shepherd through the single largest office entitlement in San Francisco history, and he worked for the San Francisco Giants as they negotiated terms with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for what would become the entirety of the new Mission Rock neighborhood.

Alex founded or co‑founded four public affairs firms – two of them with intention, and two because of circumstance.

Progress Public AffairsIn 2003, he founded Barbary Coast Consulting, growing it methodically into what the New York Times declared in 2011  was one of the four most influential strategy firms in San Francisco.

In 2016, he split Barbary Coast Consulting in two, spinning half of it off to form Civic Edge Consulting , a government-serving consultancy. Simultaneously, he merged the other half of Barbary Coast with competitor Goodyear Peterson Hayward, forming Lighthouse Public Affairs . Under the leadership of Alex and his partners, Lighthouse grew into a formidable statewide advocacy firm.

And in 2022, along with the majority of Lighthouse's Bay Area team, Alex departed. The team collectively founded Progress Public Affairs  , a women-owned, Bay Area-focused strategic communications firm.

Alex is regularly called upon to analyze election results, advise on current events, and break down political trends.

Alex Clemens

He has been invited to speak to a wide variety of organizations, including civic groups such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, SPUR, Leadership San Francisco, and San Francisco Travel. He has created seminars for government agencies including the California State Association of Counties, the Controller’s Office Managers’ Group, and the California Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Association.

He has led presentations for industry groups like the San Francisco Public Relations Roundtable, CalCPA Managing Members, the Real Estate Roundtable, Lambda Alpha, the Urban Land Institute, and the San Francisco Consular Corps. He has lectured to leadership organizations including Ascent Leadership Forum and Vistage. And he has served as a debate moderator for political groups like the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, the Alice B Toklas Club, YIMBY Action, the United Democratic Club, and the Housing Action Coalition.

(And he’s also given a talk at Nerd Nite. And if you don’t know about Nerd Nite, you should check it out.)

Alex has taught full courses on ethical advocacy and strategic communications at the University of San Francisco Master of Public Affairs program in the 2010s, and to masters’ candidates at Golden Gate University in the 2000s. He has guest lectured at the Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, at Stanford University, at the University of California Santa Cruz, and at San Francisco State University. (Yes, he’s a little miffed that the Kennedy School hasn’t yet reached out.)

Alex has been quoted on political matters in the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and a majority of the Bay Area’s television and radio stations. In addition, he has served on a variety of cultural and civic boards, including San Francisco City Carshare, CORO Northern California, Leadership San Francisco, and the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

Alex has staffed four politicians serving in San Francisco and Washington, DC. He worked for three San Francisco Supervisors, including Roberta Achtenberg. In 1993, when newly elected President Bill Clinton tapped Achtenberg to become Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing at Housing and Urban Development, her selection immediately spurred national headlines, as she was the first-ever out gay person ever to go through a Senate confirmation process. After several grueling months of meetings, media, and mayhem, Achtenberg was confirmed by a vote of 58‑31. Alex moved to Washington, DC, to serve as Achtenberg's aide at HUD.

City Attorney BadgeLater in the 1990's, Alex returned to San Francisco to work at the San Francisco City Attorney’s office as an investigator, working to defend the City from spurious lawsuits (and helping them settle the legitimate ones.) He was assigned by then-City Attorney Louise Renne to specialize in city department investigations, rooting out city employees and managers who were failing to appear at their jobs , stealing money from the City , sleeping instead of providing public safety , and otherwise using taxpayer money for personal gain.

Most notably, Alex personally caught a San Franciscan in the act of voting multiple times in a critical election, leading to weeks of headlines, a criminal admission of guilt, and jail time . Investigating corruption on behalf of the people is still the best job he ever had, and Alex remains a licensed California private investigator. He still enjoys catching the bad guys. In 2022, Alex investigated a mysterious disappearance of $20,000 from his company's client, confronted the responsible parties, and effectuated the return of the funds. Alex continues to keep his license in use, and frequently has an active HR, fraud, or due diligence case on his desk.

Alex Clemens, Mayor Ed Lee, Willie Brown

Alex’s commitment to Bay Area politics runs deep. He started a website in 1995 called San Francisco Usual Suspects, which, for the next twenty-one years, curated and posted all the stories covering local politics. For more than a decade, he has served as one of the co-hosts of the annual Election Day Luncheon at John’s Grill.

Though he’s left full-time employment in the public sector, Alex’s commitment to public service continues. In 2024, Governor Newsom named Alex to the Board of Optometry at the California Department of Consumer Affairs, where Alex works to protect the health and safety of California consumers through licensing, education and regulation of optometry and opticianry.

Alex also manages perhaps San Francisco’s most confounding political event, where once a year, a couple dozen people named Alex (or variants of Alex), all of whom are involved in San Francisco politics, join together for lunch. Roll is taken. Jokes are made. We determine where we’re planning to rumble with Team Josh. Food and drink are consumed, and it’s all time well wasted. (If you know of an Alex in San Francisco politics, make sure to connect them to this Alex, because they’re automatically invited.)

What you say about yourself is nice. What others are willing to say publicly about your work… well, that’s nicer. Here's one from a fellow you’ve read a lot about, and a sampling of the hundred+ more sent in by clients, professional colleagues, elected officials, government department heads, and even some competitors…

(You can read the entire list by clicking here – you must be logged into LinkedIn to see the endorsements.)

SF Chronicle
From Barbary Coast to Civic Edge
New York Times - Lobbyists Play Outsize Role as Political Fund-Raisers in San Francisco