SACRAMENTO -- Anne Gust Brown, the wife, chief adviser and de facto chief of staff of Gov. Jerry Brown, acknowledged her role in keeping her intellectual but sometimes unfocused husband on track during his second stint in the governor's office.
But she also conceded that no one really manages him.
"He likes to pretend he's managed, but he's not very easily managed," she told a group of professional women on Wednesday during a rare public address at a luncheon. "He does what he wants most of the time."
Brown, 55, said she is able to speak to her husband in a different way than others and keep him focused on his priorities. Still, she and senior adviser Nancy McFadden "do have to corral him sometimes," she said.
The former chief legal counsel to Gap Inc. brings decades of experience as a corporate attorney to the governor's office, which she said helps her husband as he considers the potential effects of state policies on business.
Jerry Brown, 75, has spent most of his career in government, including two previous terms as governor from 1975 to 1983.
"He hasn't worked in a business like I have," Anne Gust Brown said.
Brown has kept a low public profile since her husband returned to the governor's office in 2011. She rarely gives interviews or speeches.
She joked that the couple's Welsh corgi, Sutter, is better known than she is.
"It's hard in my household to get any attention between my husband and the dog," Brown said to laughter at the luncheon.
Nine out of 10 people who see her walking Sutter never look up or acknowledge her as "someone worth knowing," although she doesn't take it personally, she said.
After retaking the office, Jerry Brown named his wife as his unpaid special counsel, a title she prefers to the conventional first lady moniker.
In addition to her counsel on state policy, Anne Gust Brown has also helped provide a softer image of her intellectually rigorous husband, who had been a bachelor until the couple married in 2005. She occasionally posts family photos and other light-hearted nuggets on her Twitter account.
Much of the discussion on Wednesday revolved around issues concerning women's challenges in the professional world. Brown detailed some of the obstacles she faced during her ascent, and said she marvels at the disparity in the way women and men are often treated.
"Men can be complete jerks and I've seen them and worked for them, and they completely get away with it, whereas a woman is -- oh my, the words that come out, you all know them," she said.
She said her husband enjoys being intellectually engaged with the job around the clock and would be perfectly content not taking any vacations -- but she needs a break.
"He lives this 24-7 and loves it. I am the one who has to sort of find ways to get away from him and the dog," she said.
Asked to identify one misperception about her husband, Anne Gust Brown cited the notion that he is arrogant. It likely stems from him being "in his head so often" that people think he is not paying attention, but he is very interested in other peoples' ideas, she said.