January 22, 2024 – Blake Zante, an alumnus of the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute Legislative Intern Scholar Program and former student body president of Fresno State, was named executive director of the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute.
Zante succeeds Mark Keppler, who served as executive director of the Maddy Institute for 19 years. The Maddy Institute’s mission is to provide non-partisan, interdisciplinary and fact-driven analysis of public policy issues impacting our region and state.
The institute also provides practical training for local officials and civic leaders, paid internships for San Joaquin Valley students with local, state and federal legislators and symposia and extension courses on a range of topics relating to public policy and public administration.
As a government affairs and communications professional, Zante most recently served as district representative to former Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.
“The experience I gained as a Maddy intern played a significant role in my career and professional development, so it goes without saying that it’s an absolute honor to serve as the Maddy Institute’s executive director and continue the legacy of Senator Maddy,” Zante said.
“I look forward to partnering with all of our valley cities, including the City of Clovis, to continue the nonpartisan work of the Maddy Institute and train the next generation of leaders. I would also like to thank Mark Keppler who not only served as the Maddy Institute’s executive director for 19 years, but whose community service to the City of Clovis has made it a better community for all to live, work, and play.”
The Maddy Institute at Fresno State was established by the California legislature in 1999. It honors the legacy of Maddy, a state senator whose 28 years of public service to the San Joaquin Valley were marked by respect for his colleagues regardless of party or position.
“As a Maddy alum myself, it is exciting to see us bring one of our own to lead our next chapter at the institute,” said Melissa Frank, the Maddy Institute’s chair of the board and assistant general counsel for The Wonderful Company.
“I also want to thank Mark Keppler, on behalf of our entire board and alum community, for his leadership and commitment to the vision, mission and values of the institute.”
In 2019, the Maddy Institute expanded its reach through a partnership with California State University, Bakersfield; California State University, Stanislaus; and University of California, Merced.
As executive director, Zante will be responsible for the management of the institute, including coordinating its intern programs, increasing participation in the democratic process and producing and hosting public affairs programs to foster awareness of public policy impacts on San Joaquin Valley agriculture and other sectors.
In addition to Keppler, former leaders of the Maddy Institute include former Fresno State President Harold Haak, Representative Jim Costa and former Mayor of Fresno Dan Whitehurst.
Zante earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Fresno State, where he served as student body president and received a President’s Honors Scholarship from the Smittcamp Family Honors College.
Prior to serving on former Speaker McCarthy’s staff, Zante served as press secretary to State Senator Andreas Borgeas. He also serves as a current Fresno County planning commissioner, Fresno State Alumni Association board member, Fresno Rotary Club member and is a graduate of the San Joaquin Political Academy of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.