COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JIM SCHMIDT

Next governor needs to change and restore things as Reagan did

There is a great deal of anger and concern with the situation in Sacramento. With our current governor leaving in 11 months the next governor will take over and be faced with terrible problems even if some are corrected this year. This writer served as Gov. Reagan's appointee to three positions in state government. I saw an inherited big budget deficit reversed. Reagan's successor was provided with a big budget surplus.

Since moving to California I have seen seven governors in office (Pat, Gipper, Junior, Duke, Pete, Recall Gray and the Terminator). Here are a few suggestions for the next governor when he or she takes over in 2011:

1. Eliminate the huge top level state bureaucracy.

2. Be a teammate and stop stealing monies from local governments, transit, highway projects, education, re-development funds, etc.

3. Have a freeze on hiring instead of lay-offs, which hurt morale (the Reagan plan using this idea was successful with large staff reductions).

4. Have every agency and department go all out to reduce expenses and find hidden expenses that can be eliminated.

5. If a tax increase is necessary in order to get legislative approval for needed changes, have a "sunset" placed on the tax increase so that the tax will end automatically at a future date without requiring legislative approval.

6. Have a goal, when leaving office, to have a surplus for the next governor like Reagan provided for Jerry Brown.

7. Have a person as our next governor who will be a "lifeguard" like Reagan (he saved 75 lives as a lifeguard in Dixon, Ill.). Save our state of California -- It can be done with top-level leadership and teamwork.

For review, the following are excerpts from my June 11, 2004 Daily Transcript article on Ronald Reagan, written shortly after Reagan died.

"Remembering the governor from California"

Gordon Luce and I had the great honor of joining Ronald Reagan at the start of his term as governor in January 1967. We ran the Business and Transportation Agency as Reagan's appointees, with Gordon as secretary and myself as assistant secretary and chief deputy. We oversaw, with a staff of two and three secretaries, the four transportation departments (Cal Trans, Dept. of Motor Vehicles, Highway Patrol and Aeronautics) and the seven business regulatory departments, which included Banking, Savings and Loans, Real Estate, Corporations, Insurance, Housing and Community Development, and Alcoholic Beverage Control.

When I returned to San Diego, Gov. Reagan appointed me to the State Transportation Board and the California Toll Bridge Authority to help continue his plans to improve transportation in California. I have many great memories, but here are my recollections of two important things that happened during my time in Sacramento:

Management style -- Reagan's cabinet only had seven members, including four secretaries overseeing 40 departments, a director of finance, executive secretary/chief of staff, the cabinet secretary and also Lt. Gov. Bob Finch. The cabinet met twice a week for an hour and a half. Only cabinet members sat at the table with the governor. The counsel and legislative director were at the sides to answer questions if needed.

An excellent one-page memo plan for cabinet meetings was recommended by cabinet secretary Bill Clark and adopted by the governor. The memo plan had four points on the page. Each memo set out the issue, the facts, a discussion of the issues and then the conclusions and recommendation. The memos were exchanged in advance between the cabinet members, then discussed at the cabinet meeting. The governor would then make his decision. As an alternate member of the cabinet as the Business and Transportation Agency representative, I learned more about management in the state government than in the private sector and it really helped in my future endeavors.

Bipartisanship -- Reagan led the way as a Republican in developing good relationships with Democrats. He such a good job in this effort that Sen. Hugh Burns of Fresno, Democratic president pro tem of the Senate, was co-chair of Reagan's 1970 re-election campaign. Democratic Sen. Randy Collier of Yreka, who served over 30 years in the state Senate and was chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, always said that Reagan was the greatest governor he had ever worked with. Serving Reagan in Sacramento was an experience I will always remember. It could not have been better. He was the nicest person anyone could ever meet.


Schmidt is a retired banker and attorney who is active with the chamber of commerce and in civic affairs in transportation, housing and sports. He also serves on two public boards and was Gov. Reagan's appointee to three positions in state government.

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