Most of his appointments in the first year went to people who live in Northern California, but 20 Inland residents got posts

BY JIM MILLER
SACRAMENTO BUREAU
jmiller@pe.com

Published: 25 January 2012 09:45 PM

SACRAMENTO — As Gov. Jerry Brown put his stamp on California government in the past year, his appointments leaned heavily toward the state’s less-populated northern half.

Since taking office in January 2011, Brown had made almost 580 appointments to administration jobs and state boards and commissions through last week. Of those, two-thirds listed residences in 10 Northern California counties, with a third, 194, from Sacramento County alone. Almost 70 percent are Democrats.

Fast-growing Riverside and San Bernardino counties, with a combined population of more than 4million, are home to 20 gubernatorial appointees so far. That includes several appointees to regional boards, which must be filled by residents of a particular geographic area.

Appointees give an area a voice in the state bureaucracy and can help shape policies on everything from medical licensing to fire-prevention fees on structures in rural areas. In the case of some high-profile boards, such as the California Transportation Commission or UC’s Board of Regents, getting a local appointed becomes a priority for some civic and political leaders.

Some officials point to a low number of applicants as part of the reason for the handful of Brown appointments from the Inland area. In addition, gubernatorial appointments traditionally have a political aspect. The Inland region leans Republican, and its legislative delegation is dominated by conservative GOP lawmakers.

“I wish there were more” appointees from the region, said Riverside City Fire Captain Tim Strack, who was named to the Seismic Safety Commission last summer by Brown. The background checks, interviews and other steps went on for months, he said. “It wasn’t a short process.”

State Sen. Bill Emmerson, who leads the Inland Southern California legislative caucus, said he has vouched for a few local residents seeking an appointment or reappointment by Brown.

Emmerson, R-Hemet, said he also senses that relatively few Inland residents are putting their names forward.

“I don’t know what that means,” Emmerson said. “I would certainly like more individuals to get more involved in the appointment process.”

Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said the governor is committed to appointing the most qualified and experienced people, and geographic diversity is a goal.

Westrup downplayed the apparent Northern California bent to the governor’s appointments. He said appointees’ residence is self-reported, and that some appointees who listed a Northern California residence could have roots in Southern California.

In addition, Westrup said it sometimes is hard to convince someone to take a full-time job with the state.

“We speak to incredibly qualified candidates in every corner of the state. But getting them to uproot their families, move hundreds of miles, take a pay cut in many cases, and move to Sacramento is not always possible,” Westrup said.

People who are interested in appointments can apply on the governor’s website, www.gov.ca.gov.

NORTH VS. SOUTH

Governors have about 3,000 slots they can fill. Political supporters, campaign staff and donors are traditional sources of appointees. Appointments also follow the recommendations of various business associations, unions and other interest groups.

Local civic leaders weigh in, as well. In the 1990s, then-Gov. Pete Wilson opened regional offices in Riverside and other cities that, in part, were supposed to help identify and recruit potential appointees and bring them to the attention of higher-ups in Sacramento. Brown closed those offices to save money.

It’s unclear who performs that role now. Strack and some other Brown appointees in the Inland area have strong ties to organized labor, which backed Brown in the 2010 campaign.

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