Susan Tellem


Name: Susan M. Tellem

Birth date: May 23, 1945 – “I am a rocking, socking Gemini, the queen of the Zodiac, which makes me perfect for the City Council.”

How long have you lived in Malibu?

We fell in love with Malibu many years ago but finally could afford to move here in 1997.

How many people are in your immediate family, regardless of whether they live at home? Feel free to mention their names and ages.

Marshall Thompson, my adorable husband and the world’s best video producer. Tori Tellem, daughter, automotive writer for many publications, including the New York Times and 4 Wheel and Off Road. John Tellem, son, who heads the entertainment division at our PR agency. Dan Grody, son, who heads the consumer division at our PR agency, and is a professional drummer. Laura Grody, daughter, who is finishing her master’s in linguistics and works at St. John’s Hospital.

What is your education and employment history?

I received a bachelor’s degree from Mount St. Mary’s College and became an RN. I switched careers to public relations, specializing in the medical field and started my agency in 1977. Saatchi & Saatchi, London, acquired the agency in 1987. I served as SVP/managing director at Burson-Marsteller, the world’s largest PR agency. I relaunched my own firm, Tellem Worldwide Inc., in 1994, and my two sons joined the business and are now partners.

Why are you running for City Council?

I love Malibu, and I need my head examined. Seriously, I see the city heading down a perilous road of overdevelopment with no specific plan and poor evacuation and communication procedures magnified during our recent fires. Traffic is a nightmare, and our schools are not getting their fair share. The water quality is suffering. I can liberate the lock step of the current City Council and bring diverse opinions and fresh ideas. We need change.

What makes you qualified to be on City Council?

My qualifications come from 30 years of running a national public relations business where I proved my skills as a spokesperson, negotiator, consensus builder and crisis manager. I am an educator (Pepperdine and UCLA), a Medical Reserve Corps member and an LAPD Reserve Officer Specialist (retired), so I have solid knowledge of health and safety issues. On a personal level, I care about the world around me, fighting to preserve our environment and rescuing wildlife.

What organizations or groups have you been involved in and how were you involved?

My community service has spanned three decades, including many hours in Malibu. I am a voting member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; 30-year member Public Relations Society of America and winner of its Joseph Roos Community Service Award; President Alumna Board, Marymount High School, Alumna of the Year and current Class Representative; member FBI’s InfraGard; Century City Chamber 2007 Women of Achievement; and founder of the international nonprofit American Tortoise Rescue.

Have you been involved in any homeowners associations or other community groups, including city committees?

In my 20s, I served on the association board and the architectural committee of my first condo. I have been an active member of every homeowners group in each community where I lived from Culver City to Beverly Hills to Malibu. My husband is the president of Malibu Park Homeowners Association, and I am active there as well. I started Neighborhood Watch programs in several communities and have been a community advocate for many years.

What experiences have you had dealing with budgets? How about legislation?

As the person involved in billing and budgets with my own business for years, I am responsible for PR budgets for the clients I serve as well. I am the fundraiser and treasurer for American Tortoise Rescue.

I am involved in many legislative activities on behalf of clients. Currently I represent AB 1634, a spay and neuter bill. I am looking for a legislative bill sponsor to make the sale of turtles illegal in California.

What are your interests outside of politics?

I believe in the benefits of exercise, so I take dance and yoga classes and enjoy exploring the parks in Malibu with my husband. An avid reader and author, I’ve had many articles and one book published. Marshall and I love animals and our home is filled with rescues, including sheep, goats, cats, birds, and many turtles and tortoises. We are developing a children’s video series about animals, which has been sold, called “Alphabet Animals.”