Sixty years ago, when men wore hats and flappers drank bathtub gin, Edmund J. Krause roamed the wilds of Wyoming collecting unpaid taxes for the state treasury.
The countryside was untamed in 1926, as were the oil explorers and shotgun-wielding cattle ranchers with whom the 25-year-old from St. Louis tangled.
Although the guns have long since rusted and the oil explorers are now multinational corporations, Krause still tangles with taxes and government--as a councilman for the City of La Canada Flintridge. At 84, he apparently is the second-oldest councilman in California, says the League of California Cities and the Southern California Assn. of Governments.
There are no official age records of the 2,000 council members who represent California's 400 cities, but both groups said Krause appears to rank behind only Gilbert Lindsay, 85, who represents Los Angeles' downtown business district.
'Don't Feel Old'
Ironically, Krause, who has been a councilman since La Canada Flintridge incorporated in 1976, presides over a city that is less than one-eighth his age. But then age, Krause says, is relative.
"I worked until I was 70 . . . and I'm busier now than ever before. I don't feel old," he said in a recent interview. In April, Krause will seek his fourth term.
Terms are now four years but were only two years when the city first incorporated.
Gil Smith, an assistant director of the association of governments and a former Carson mayor who has known Krause for many years, said the La Canada Flintridge councilman is energetic and effective.
"There are many younger officials not as active and vocal as Ed," Smith said.
La Canada City Manager Donald Otterman said Krause is one of the better council members he has worked with in 18 years of public administration.
But one La Canada Flintridge council member, who declined to be identified, said Krause is "getting a little too old."
"He's a fine individual who has done a lot for the city, but he likes to reminisce a little too much and doesn't always follow discussions" at meetings, the council member said.
A second council member declined to comment about Krause's age.
By his own admission, Krause, a retired licensed public accountant, is methodical and pays great attention to detail. He can rattle off exact dates of marriages, births and journeys that are 50 years in the past.
He has been known to scrutinize city phone bills, and often carries a camera to take shots of fire hazards, open trenches and roads in need of repaving, which he then presents to city staff and county fire officials. Krause also serves as a Los Angeles County Fire Department commission chairman.
With his slow, deliberate demeanor, deep-set blue eyes and neatly trimmed white mustache, Krause is a fixture in the administrative offices and on city streets of La Canada Flintridge, dispensing business cards and combing over city records. He has 24 different cards representing his myriad professional and civic activities but uses only two regularly--councilman and fire commissioner.
The councilman finds La Canada Flintridge more sedate than Wyoming, where he was once met at a property gate by a poker-playing rancher brandishing a shotgun. He also likes the climate here better.
Krause said he decided to leave Wyoming for Los Angeles in 1926 during a weeklong blizzard when temperatures plummeted to 48 degrees below zero. When his train pulled into Los Angeles' Union Station, Krause could only marvel at the warm climate and gape at the city's many orange groves, he recalled.
He soon landed a job in finance with a bank consortium, which he kept until 1944, when he went to work as a senior tax representative for the state Board of Equalization. The board administers state business-tax programs, assesses utilities and controls property-tax assessors, among other things.
Krause worked for the Board of Equalization until 1971, when he retired. As a tax representative, one of his duties was to counsel communities seeking cityhood, he said. Krause recalls advising the cities of Rosemead and Temple City, experiences that would later help him incorporate La Canada Flintridge.
Krause moved to the rural community in 1950 from the Los Feliz hills. In 1976, he participated in La Canada Flintridge's successful fight for cityhood. He also helped the fledgling municipality franchise public utilities and helped secure state tax revenues. He served as mayor from 1981 to 1982.
In his 10 years in office, Krause is proudest of his roles in monitoring the city budget and helping the city obtain hard-to-find liability insurance in 1976. He has for several years worked to have the old Lanterman house on Encinas Drive declared a national historic monument, and he favors regulation of billboards and signs and construction of a city sewer system.