This Agency President Has a Pitch for Voters: Re-election

Part of Ad Age's Ongoing Series on Agency Execs with Cool Side Jobs

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Rich Cline
Rich Cline

Rich Cline helps run Voce, a digital agency he co-founded that's handled work for brands like Google, eBay and Yahoo. But he's perhaps better known for his duties with a different kind of operation -- Menlo Park, Calif., the city that's been home to Facebook headquarters since 2011 and is the birthplace of companies like Google.

After two one-year terms as mayor of Menlo Park, starting in 2009, Mr. Cline won a seat on the city council, where he's up for re-election on Nov. 4.

"The most workable system is the local government," he said, recalling his motivation for seeking public office. "Something happens when you get involved. You help someone run, and then you run."

And if you're Mr. Cline, you don't quit your day job, even if you're on a tear. Throughout his time as mayor and as a councilman, he has continued as president at Voce. "The resident and business interaction is daily," he said, "but if I can manage the schedule I can handle it like any job."

Facebook began talking to Menlo Park about potentially moving its headquarters there from downtown Palo Alto about a year into Mr. Cline's time as mayor. He won't take credit for the powerful tenant, but talks went well enough to land the social network. "They ultimately make their own decisions, but it was a good negotiation," he said.

Since then, the local government has pressed Facebook to help the city by donating money to non-profits and funding a new police officer in East Menlo Park. "They've backed up everything they said they'd be as a partner," he said.

Mr. Cline helped start Voce, which is now part of Omnicom's Porter Novelli, after making an early go as a journalist. He stopped covering local politics when he ended his journalism career, but he couldn't completely shake the beat. So he started doing volunteer work with city organizations and served on the Parks and Recreation commission, among other boards and commissions.

His political work benefits from experience working with tech companies at Voce, according to Mr. Cline. "I can provide insight into what I think these companies want and what types of communities they want to work in," he said.

He knows the new generation of Silicon Valley talent wants to ride bikes to work, for example, and stop to have a beer on their way home. It's one insight that helped inform a six-year development plan to build the right infrastructure in the city. "You're not going to get young innovative companies if you don't have companies like Facebook as bookends," he said. "Secondarily you've got to have facilities."

He believes he can take some of what he's learned in local government -- running a budget of over $100 million for a city of more than 33,000 people, and managing negotiations with companies like Facebook -- back to adland.

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