SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS SF & AP) — Nancy McFadden, the chief of staff to California Gov. Jerry Brown and the driving force behind many of his key initiatives, died Thursday in her home after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 59.

The governor’s office says McFadden died Thursday night after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Brown described McFadden as “fearless.”

“Nancy was the best chief of staff a governor could ever ask for. She understood government and politics, she could manage, she was a diplomat and she was fearless,” Brown said in a statement.

McFadden was hired as Brown’s chief of staff in 2011, when he returned to the governor’s office, and became a leading adviser on everything from criminal justice reform to climate policy. She was often the chief negotiator between Brown’s office and lawmakers, particularly on an extension of California’s cap-and-trade climate legislation that passed last year after months of tense dealings with legislators and interest groups.

Condolences began to immediately pour in.

“Jennifer and I offer our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of one of the most gifted and accomplished public servants to have served California, Nancy McFadden,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. “Nancy carried the burden of her enormous responsibility with spirit, verve, and humility. Her tenacity and determination was contagious. She was brilliant, kind, and dedicated. She was simply the best at what she did.”

The Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman called her “a great leader.”

“California lost a great leader with the passing of Nancy McFadden and we lost a good friend,” Wunderman said in a statement. “Throughout her career and, in particular, during her time as Gov. Brown’s chief of staff, Nancy devoted herself to improving California, taking on our most difficult challenges and finding solutions where many thought none could be found. She was a leader, a fighter, a friend. We will miss her terribly and remember her fondly, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called McFadden “a true force of nature.”

“Today we say a sad goodbye to a dear friend, Nancy McFadden,” he wrote. “We have lost a beloved companion, leader, and for those who understood her reach, a true force of nature. Nancy, you gave our beloved California more than your fair share. Rest in Peace.”

Steve Maviglio, a friend and fellow political consultant, says McFadden was “a one-woman mission control center” for every major issue in Brown’s office.

“She was the fulcrum of the administration — a one-woman mission control center for every major effort and everything of consequence that was achieved over the past seven years,” Maviglio wrote.


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