Nancy Dobbs graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in political science in 1977, then cut her teeth writing speeches and press releases for former state Assemblyman Barry Keene.
But her political career took a swift detour when she was hired to help plan and launch a public TV station in the North Bay in 1981.
"That job was going to last six months," Dobbs said, sitting in her small office at the studios of KRCB-TV Channel 22 in Rohnert Park. "Now, it's 30 years later."
From the time it went on the air in December 1984 — the premiere program was a Nova-series show, "Spacewomen" — Channel 22's focus has been on serving the residents of Napa, Marin and Sonoma counties.
"In 1984, when we went on the air, we were serving 250,000 who didn't have access to public TV," she recalled. "But they could get us."
Over the years, Dobbs moved up from planning coordinator to station manager. She currently serves as president and CEO of the PBS-TV station and the National Public Radio station, KRCB-FM (91.1), which was launched in 1994.
"She's incredibly smart and has an incredible memory," said Una Glass, executive director of Coastwalk California and a longtime friend. "That's part of why she's been such a great CEO for KRCB. She remembers all those volunteers and donors, and their kids' names."
But her keen intellect is balanced by a soft, gracious manner that's refreshingly old-fashioned, Glass said.
"She's very committed to causes and doing good in the world," Glass added. "She definitely believes in change, in a way that many people have abandoned or given up."
As president and CEO, Dobbs' responsibilities include managing the 45-member staff, the budget, all the major fund-raising and community outreach. Her challenge in the current media climate is carving out a role for the TV station that keeps it relevant.