Kristen Torres Pawling, 2009-10 Executive Fellow

Kristen Torres Pawling is the Sustainability Program Director for the County of Los Angeles.   Appointed in June of 2017, she is responsible for crafting the sustainability plan for the county on behalf of the Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office.  This office provides comprehensive and coordinated policy support and guidance for the Board of Supervisors, County departments, and the region toward making healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable communities.


Kristen has been involved in air quality, transportation planning, and climate change policy for almost a decade.  After graduating from UCLA with a BA in Geography and Environmental Studies in 2009, she served as an Executive Fellow in the Office of Chairwoman Mary Nichols at the Air Resources Board (ARB) in the California Environmental Protection Agency.  She was involved in the implementation of the landmark greenhouse gas legislation AB 32 and SB 375, along with drafting the Strategic Growth Council’s Federal Transportation Policy Consensus Document.  Kristen continued her work with ARB in the Transportation Planning branch in Los Angeles, and after graduating with a Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning from UCLA worked with the Southern California Association of Governments as a regional planner and then with the Natural Resources Defense Council advocating for climate change solutions.

Kristen cites her experience as an Executive Fellow as a formative time for her as a professional. She also credits the fellowship for providing important lessons and experiences in leadership.

“My time as the Air Resources Board fellow gave me a thorough education on public service, credibility, collaboration, leadership, and more. During my fellowship years (2009-2010) the state’s economic situation was still incredibly tough. The value and impact of air quality and climate change policies were under fire nearly every single day.

As a fellow, I worked with and learned from some incredible women who were pioneers in a male-dominated field.” I learned that being prepared and being self-confident would put your ahead of so many others who may only have one of those two parts of the equation under their belt. I saw that principle in action when our chief counsel squared off with cowboy boot-wearing railroad attorneys who resisted clean equipment at California’s most polluting railyards and I saw it when my mentor went to face anti-environment legislators who questioned California’s role as global leader on climate change. Applying that lesson to my career today years after my fellowship is especially meaningful when I enter a room to find I’m the only millennial, only woman, and/or only Latina.”