Spotlight on Women: Sarah Farnsworth
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs San Diego Padres
How did you make the leap from Washington, D.C., to the Padres in San Diego? Tom Garfinkel, CEO of the Padres, asked me if I would consider working for a baseball team. I thought it was a joke. I didn’t know anything about baseball. After 19 years in D.C. I wanted the opportunity to become a part of a community, and that is what I saw in San Diego. It’s an opportunity for me to give back.
You are engaged to marry a retired Marine, and you have a young daughter. What role did they play in your decision to join the Padres? It was a family decision. We decided together. I was working in a job that really wasn’t a career. With the Padres I have a career where I can be challenged, and I am part of a civic asset. Since my fiancé is retired, he plays a big role in my daughter’s care when I have work demands.
How did you get involved in politics? I was living in New York when the Democratic National Convention was held there; 22 years old and just out of college, I volunteered at the convention. From there I was assigned to do advance for Hillary Clinton during Bill’s first run for president. That was 1992. When Bill won the presidency, I was asked to work on the inauguration in 1993. From there I went to work on the First Lady’s staff in the East Wing. I was responsible for planning all events in the Rose Garden, the South Lawn, and basically anything in the White House. And the Clintons were very active, with many events going on!
Tell me about your time in the White House. I worked seven and a half years and left to marry, but returned for the last six months at the end of the Clinton term. I celebrated my 30th birthday at the second Clinton inauguration.
Where did you work when you left the White House? I was chief of staff at the USO and traveled frequently to Afghanistan and Iraq. I was working in the world headquarters for then-General Jim Jones, who later became President Obama’s national security advisor. President Obama asked me to become senior advisor to the national security advisor, so that put me working in the West Wing of the White House. When General Jones resigned in 2010, I was asked to work in the Pentagon.
You spent so much time working for presidents in both wings of the White House. How did you keep your feet on the ground? I never thought of it as politics, but as being part of an historical institution. There was a plaque on the wall in the White House that I passed by every day. The bottom line was “one day you will be on the other side of the iron gate.” That puts it in perspective.
What challenges have you faced? After being to Iraq and Afghanistan, challenges take on a different meaning. As long as my family is healthy, I don’t have any bad days.
What adjustments did you have to make when you joined the Padres? I have had to earn trust and credibility in a whole new profession, I had to learn baseball, and I have had to earn trust in the community.
What is in your future? I’m here with the San Diego Padres as long as they will keep me.