Serena McIlwain, Undersecretary for Environmental Protection


CalEPA Undersecretary Serena McIlwainSerena McIlwain was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in March 2019 to serve as Undersecretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. As Undersecretary, McIlwain oversees the day to day operations of the agency and serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary. She has oversight responsibility of the Office of the Secretary budget, totaling $22 million. McIlwain also provides leadership and support to all of the boards, departments and offices under CalEPA and CalEPA’s total budget of $4.6 billion.

Prior to joining CalEPA, McIlwain was director of the Office of Continuous Improvement at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency where she deployed an agency-wide Lean Management System to improve agency performance, increase productivity, eliminate waste, solve problems, and continuously improve. From 2014-2017, she was assistant regional administrator at the U.S. EPA’s Region 9 in San Francisco. She served as the senior resource officer, chief information officer and senior grants official, supporting the region’s 800 federal staff.

While at the U.S. Department of Energy, from 2011-2014, she was the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, serving as principal advisor to the assistant secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy. In her first year there, she implemented a new Office for Continuous Improvement. She directed business operations, and created a lean culture among the 3,100 federal employees.

McIlwain was director of the office of business partner at the U.S. Department of Energy from 2009 -2011 and director for workforce planning and management at the Architect of the Capitol from 2003 – 2009. 

She earned a Master of Public Administration from George Mason University and a Master of Science in administration from Central Michigan University. 

Executive Management Biographies