Neel Kashkari is an experienced, pragmatic leader who has successfully worked with Republicans and Democrats to tackle the most serious economic challenges America has faced in nearly a century. Neel is best known for spearheading the country’s response to the 2008 financial crisis, but his interest in public policy and finding solutions to complex challenges began early in life.
A first-generation American, Neel grew up in a middle-class household where he witnessed firsthand how a good education can empower people and open the doors of opportunity. His parents emigrated from India to the United States some 50 years ago. Neel’s father taught engineering at a local college and dedicated his research to eradicating poverty in villages in India and Africa, earning the Presidential End Hunger Award from President George H.W. Bush. Neel’s mother worked at a community hospital treating patients battling cancer. While growing up outside the blue-collar city of Akron, Ohio, Neel bagged groceries, mowed lawns, and worked as an assistant at a local auto garage to earn extra money. An early interest in math and science led Neel to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering at the University of Illinois, where he led an 80-person student team to build a solar-powered car to compete in the 1,100-mile Sunrayce challenge. After graduating, Neel moved to California in 1998 and worked as a design engineer at TRW in Redondo Beach, developing technology for NASA space missions.
Neel wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and job creation, so he went back to school and earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating in 2002, Neel returned to California to help Silicon Valley entrepreneurs raise capital to grow their companies and create jobs. Neel’s interest in public policy and service took him to Washington, D.C. in 2006, when President George W. Bush appointed him to the Department of the Treasury. His initial work brought together experts from across the government and private sectors to craft policies to encourage alternative energy sources that would enhance both national security and environmental sustainability. When the housing downturn started, Neel led the Department’s work with non-profit organizations, congressional leaders, and financial institutions to help distressed homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures.
Neel was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 2008. As the financial crisis erupted, Neel negotiated with congressional leaders of both parties to write and pass landmark legislation to prevent a widespread economic collapse. The program he implemented not only has recouped all the money spent, but also has made a $13 billion profit for taxpayers to date. For his leadership, Neel received the Alexander Hamilton Award, the Department’s highest honor.
Following his work in Washington, Neel returned to California in 2009 to work for PIMCO, a company that helps teachers, firefighters, and other public employees save for their retirement. He left the firm in January 2013 to explore returning to public service. Since then, he has been traveling the state meeting with Californians to learn about the challenges facing families, communities and small businesses to determine how he can help give others the same opportunities America has given his family. Neel currently resides in Orange County with his two Newfoundland dogs, Winslow and Newsome.