CalPERS honors CSEA leader

CalPERS Rob Feckner Auditorium
January 25, 2023

At one point in his life, Rob Feckner presided over the role of president for both CSEA and CalPERS, two organizations that benefited from his nearly 30 years of leadership and service.

As we open the door to a new year, Feckner will close the door on what has been a remarkable career in public service with a school district, a labor federation, a pension fund, and of course, his beloved union.

“As a (CalPERS) board member that always asked, ‘how will this affect our members’ when any decision came before us, I represented CSEA members without hesitation,” the CSEA Past President and Life Member said.

“I believe I provided constant, fair, equitable treatment of all members. Regardless of their situation.”

Feckner's advocacy remains unwavering
For more than 40 years, Feckner has worked for the Napa Valley Unified School District in many different classified positions, most recently as a glazing specialist. But when it comes to Feckner’s commitment to advancing protections for California’s public workers, his advocacy remains unwavering.

“Rob knows CSEA and he knows the arcane workings of CalPERS. I often say CalPERS staff speak in ‘CalPERS-ese’, a language all their own,” said Martha Steele-Spellman of Contra Costa Retiree Council 5003, and member of CSEA’s Pre-Retirement Resource Committee.

“Rob can cut through the jargon and ask the next question so that CalPERS staff can further clarify what is being said. He has helped bring clarity to CalPERS’ actions, he is always looking out for CSEA and our members.”

Since 1999, Feckner has represented school members on the CalPERS Board of Administration, including 12 years as board president. Feckner then served as Association President of CSEA from 2005-2009 and was awarded with a CSEA Life Membership. During that time, he also served as the executive vice president for the California Labor Federation.

To say he wore many hats is an understatement – he brought the entire wardrobe everywhere he went.

“Rob’s primary focus through it all was the members of the system whom he maintained a strong connection with throughout his service. All along, Rob has been a staunch defender of defined benefit pension plans,” said Marcie Frost, Chief Executive Officer of CalPERS.

“To his core, he believes that a public employee, after a career of dedicated service, should be able to count on a living wage in retirement and decent benefits, including affordable health care.”

A legacy of service
Feckner’s impact on California’s public workers will forever leave a lasting imprint on his fellow union siblings, and he leaves a legacy for those who come after him.

As Kevin Palkki of San Bernardino CCD Chapter 291 takes over the reins of the school member seat on the CalPERS Board, Feckner’s lasting impact will be big shoes to fill.

"Kevin and I have talked many times. I believe he is well prepared to pick up and carry the mantle,” Feckner explained. “But above all, I told him to never forget where you came from. Always be true to the members and be true to your own ideals.”

Over the past two and a half decades, Feckner has helped guide the nation’s largest pension system Through organizational change and market pressures, all while strengthening CalPERS via strategic policy shifts.

And though he was the prime representative for all California school employees, Feckner always made sure to advocate for CSEA throughout his time on the CalPERS board.

“It is vital to have a CSEA member, elected by the members, to represent their needs. That is one fact that cannot go without discussion,” Feckner admitted. “Classified school employees have different nuances than anyone else in the (CalPERS) system, so it is important to educate our fellow board members.”

Feckner’s final CalPERS board meeting took place on November 16, a day that will forever be engrained in his fondest memories – and into the CalPERS campus in Sacramento.

Feckner Auditorium
As he wrapped up nearly two decades of service on the board and walked out the auditorium doors, he was surprised to learn he was walking out to an impromptu renaming ceremony, unveiling a new sign bearing his name.

Lincoln Plaza Auditorium, the chamber where the CalPERS board meets, was renamed “Feckner Auditorium” to honor his 24-year service to California’s 2.5 million public workers in the CalPERS system.

“It was such a humbling event. I had no idea that it was in the works, but I believe it is a symbol that I followed my own advice and remained true to my commitment to our members,” said Feckner.

“And to have my grandson there as they unveiled the sign was nothing short of life altering -- still brings a tear to my eye. We’ll see what life brings my way in this next chapter.”

This article was written by David Ngô for CSEA's Winter 2023 issue of the Retiree Newsletter.