Someone San Diego Should Know: Dana Perino (2024)

Dana Perino visited Washington, D.C., with her family during the summer following first grade. She was so impressed with the White House tour that she said afterward someday she would work there.

“I guess I was hooked,” said the former South Park resident, who became White House press secretary 28 years later.

Her career path started while growing up near Denver in the 1970s. Perino, her parents and sister shared an interest in current events, watching television news together each night and Sunday mornings. “I found it exciting and became a nerd for news,” she said.


“When watching news anchors, I would think to myself, ‘I want to do that.’”

Beginning in third grade, she would choose two articles from the day’s newspapers to discuss with her father before dinner. “He would ask me lots of questions … and then he’d debate other points of view,” Perino said.

“Of all the things that helped in the communications business, this was probably the most important.”

In high school she competed nationally on speech and debate teams, winning a full college scholarship. She went on to earn a college degree in communications and master’s in public affairs reporting in 1995.

After gaining experience working communications for a congressman in Washington, D.C., Perino married Peter McMahon and the couple moved to San Diego in 1999. He founded a biotech company and she worked for a public relations firm.

By September 2001 they owned a home in South Park. They enjoyed hiking, rollerblading and visiting Balboa Park.

However, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, things changed. Perino was offered a job in Washington, D.C., with the Justice Department, which needed help handling an overflow of media inquiries.

Seizing the opportunity, Perino, then 29, and her husband packed their belongings and headed east.

Her strong work ethic and communications skills were quickly noticed in the capital and she advanced to associate director of communications in 2002 and deputy press secretary in 2005.

In 2007 President George W. Bush appointed Perino White House press secretary — the first woman to hold that position in a Republican administration. She remained press secretary through the end of his administration in 2009.

Perino’s job included explaining America’s policies to the nation and the world, handling questions from reporters and preparing the president for press events.

“Everything I did … led me back to what I originally wanted to do as a kid,” Perino said.

She visited more than 50 countries and would prepare President Bush and various world leaders for joint press conferences. Among those was Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she found headstrong. After completing his preparation, Perino said, “I felt like I’d escaped a polar bear cage.”

At a press conference in Iraq a protester threw a shoe at President Bush. The president ducked but Perino got hit with a microphone and received a black eye.

Perino developed a close working relationship with President Bush. “He trusted my judgment,” she said. “I cherished his respect for me.”

She remembers her first personal talk with President Bush. “We were in the Marine One helicopter. He took out his boxed lunch and offered me half of his favorite sandwich- peanut butter and honey. We talked about my family and growing up. We got to know each other well over time.”

“I’m honored to call him a friend today,” she said. “But I also call him Mr. President.”

“In private, he is highly intelligent, funny and very personable — actually, a great mimic.”

Perino earned bipartisan respect. After she left the White House, President Barack Obama nominated her to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an agency overseeing government-sponsored international broadcasting. She won Senate confirmation.

Today Perino, 49, co-hosts Fox News Channel’s The Five and co-anchors America’s Newsroom, just as she imagined as a child while watching television news with her family.

She has authored two books. The most recent, Everything Will Be Okay, advises young women on life lessons for success.

“Start with a dream, set your goals and relentlessly try to reach them” advises Perino, who knows that path well.

About this series

Jan Goldsmith is a former member of the U-T Community Advisory Board. He is an attorney and former law partner, judge, state legislator, San Diego city attorney and Poway mayor.

Someone San Diego Should Know is a weekly column written by members of the U-T’s Community Advisory Board about local people who are interesting and noteworthy because of their experiences, achievements, creativity or credentials.

Someone San Diego Should Know: Dana Perino (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Mrs. Angelic Larkin

Last Updated:

Views: 6363

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Mrs. Angelic Larkin

Birthday: 1992-06-28

Address: Apt. 413 8275 Mueller Overpass, South Magnolia, IA 99527-6023

Phone: +6824704719725

Job: District Real-Estate Facilitator

Hobby: Letterboxing, Vacation, Poi, Homebrewing, Mountain biking, Slacklining, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Mrs. Angelic Larkin, I am a cute, charming, funny, determined, inexpensive, joyous, cheerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.