An Open DOR Conversation with Legislation and Communications Deputy Director Kim Rutledge

DOR’s new Deputy Director Kim Rutledge shifted careers from writing news stories to writing public policy and proposing legislation. As a person with a disability, she is driven to advance and improve the lives of people with disabilities throughout the state.

Kim Rutledge was recently appointed Deputy Director of the Legislation and Communications Division for the the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) by Governor Newsom.

Kim holds the unique qualities of having both legislation and communications experience and as a person with a life-long disability, has lived experiences that will inform and shape DOR’s legislation focus and communication strategies. Kim started at the Department in May and recently spoke with DOR Public Information Officer Cynthia Butler about her career path and why advocating on behalf of people with disabilities is so important to her.

CB: Kim, where did you go to school and what was your major?

KR: I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

CB: Did you work as a journalist?

KR: Yes, for about 10 years and then in 2008, I decided to explore careers away from journalism. I attended UCLA and received a master’s degree in social welfare.

CB: When did you start working with the disability community?

KR. I became a volunteer peer counselor with a spinal cord injury support group at the UC Davis Medical Center. I worked with that group until I started my master’s program in 2009. While in graduate school, I interned with the Disability Community Resource Center (formerly WCIL) in Los Angeles.

CB: What sparked your interest in working with people with disabilities?

KR: After 10 years working in journalism, mostly in newspapers, I decided I wanted to help other people with disabilities navigate social services, employment, and health care. As a person with a disability, I found the fragmented system difficult to navigate, so I was driven to do advocacy work to improve those systems for the people they serve.

CB: Why did you want to work at the Department of Rehabilitation?

KR: I was a vocational rehabilitation client in both undergraduate and graduate school, and the program helped me immensely. I also have a passion for independent living centers after spending a year working at one. I love that our department focuses on what people can do as opposed to their limitations.

CB: What interested you about your current position?

KR: I was drawn to the Deputy Director of Legislation and Communications position because I felt like the job was the ideal marriage of my former career in journalism and my current work in legislation, policy and advocacy focused on people with disabilities.

CB: What are some of the immediate things you want to focus on ?

KR: I look forward to working in partnership with other state departments and stakeholders that represent the disability community.

CB: What do you love most about what you do?

KR: I love knowing that the work I do positively impacts the lives of others with disabilities and their families.

CB: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

KR: I’ve traveled to all but 5 of the 50 states.

CB: What do you do in your spare time?

KR: I love to travel and look forward to doing more again post-COVID. My husband and I bought a 102-year-old house in downtown Sacramento during COVID and have recently become interested in making home improvements and growing tomatoes, strawberries, cacti, and succulents in our backyard garden. I also teach yoga and meditation to people with disabilities through the Piedmont Yoga Community, and I’m on the board of directors of the Sacramento branch of the American Association of University Women. I also spend time wrangling our three polydactyl cats!