Hacienda Heights legislator Bill Campbell dies at age 79

Longtime legislator Bill Campbell died this week at the age of 79. The former Hacienda Heights resident spent nearly a quarter of a century in the legislature in Sacramento.bill_campbell

The La Puente school administrator was first elected to the Assembly in 1966, eventually serving four terms. In 1972, Campbell ran for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors but lost to Pete Schabarum. The Hacienda Heights resident returned to the state Assembly in 1974.

In 1976, the ambitious politician was elected to the state Senate, where he became the first freshman since 1939 to serve on the powerful Senate Rules Committee. In 1978, his colleagues elected him as the Minority Floor Leader, a post he held through mid-1983.

Campbell spent millions running for state controller in 1986, losing to Gray Davis, who went on to become lieutenant governor, then governor. Campbell was re-elected to the state Senate in 1988.

Former colleagues described him as an affable man who was quick with a joke.

“Bill was a very nice guy, who always had a joke to tell you,” said Walnut City Councilman Bob Pacheco. “He was very smart and used his humor to cut through tough negotiations.”

The former Assemblyman said those were the days when deals were cut over dinner. Pacheco said Campbell worked closely with Democrat Willie Brown on many issues.

“Bill was someone people trusted,” Pacheco added. “When he gave you his word, he kept it.”

Jerry Haleva, Campbell’s chief of staff for 15 years, agreed, “Bill was born to solve problems … one of his great skills was being able to work closely with people from both parties, to form a consensus.”

Haleva is proud of the senator’s accomplishments.

“Bill is called the father of the sunset bills because he pushed the concept that legislation shouldn’t live forever,” Haleva said.

He said Campbell was also a champion of emergency preparedness, chairing the Joint Committee on Emergency Services.

“He promoted statewide mutual aid,” Haleva said. “When you see more than 100 fire engines from across the state fighting a major fire that is Bill’s work.”

Campbell also chaired the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a two-house committee that appoints the legislative analyst and oversees the work of the office, which monitors state revenue and expenditures.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s story CAMPBELL.

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