SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Thursday named Gaddi H. Vasquez, his chief deputy appointments secretary and a former aide to then-Supervisor Bruce Nestande, to replace Nestande on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Vasquez, 32, a Republican who has never held elective office, joined the Administration in April of 1985 as Deukmejian's liaison to the Latino community. He became a deputy appointments secretary for the governor in 1985 and was named chief deputy last month.
He will be the first Latino supervisor in the county's history.
Vasquez worked from 1980 through 1984 as the top aide to Nestande, who resigned from the board Jan. 21 and since has taken a job as vice president for government relations with George L. Argyros' Arnel Development Co. Nestande's name has surfaced in connection with investigations into the activities of W. Patrick Moriarty, the Anaheim fireworks magnate serving a sentence for political corruption.
Vasquez, who moved to Mission Viejo a week ago to become eligible for the appointment, said he was "very pleasantly surprised" when Deukmejian offered him the $58,000-a-year job on Thursday.
"I have always indicated that, while I was interested in the job, I would be willing to do whatever the governor deemed appropriate," he said. "In this instance, he determined I was the best person for the job."
He said he had played no role, in his capacity as chief deputy appointments secretary, in processing the appointment in the governor's office and had not discussed the vacancy with Deukmejian before he learned Thursday that he had been selected.
Vasquez, a self-described moderate, said he expects to be sworn in within a couple of weeks. He said he considers transportation, jail overcrowding and crime to be the top issues he will face as a supervisor.
"There are some very grave concerns about development, where it's going and how much," Vasquez said. "I intend to establish a tight network of communication with the people of south Orange County to address the issues they're concerned with."
Vasquez said he has no position on the best location for a new county jail nor any specific ideas on how to solve the county's mounting transportation problems. He said he has not decided whom he would hire as his top staff members.
A second-generation American, Vasquez was born in Texas, as were his parents, who have lived in Orange for the past 25 years. His grandparents were born in Mexico. Vasquez said he speaks fluent Spanish.
Although he moved a week ago into a Mission Viejo home owned by his mother-in-law to qualify for the appointment, Vasquez said he does not expect to be branded an outsider. Since he began working for Deukmejian, he has commuted to Sacramento and returned on weekends to Orange to be with his wife and son.
"The fact is I spent four years working in all the communities in the 3rd District," he said of his experience as Nestande's executive assistant. "That certainly provides a perspective of Gaddi Vasquez and his ability to do the job that I think outweigh that consideration."
A former policeman in the city of Orange and a graduate of the University of Redlands, Vasquez was named by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States in 1986.
In his only try for elective office, Vasquez finished fourth in the 1984 Orange election for three seats on the City Council. The top three vote-getters were incumbents. Vasquez's first reelection test will come in the June, 1988, primary. His current term will expire in December, 1988.
Although Vasquez was on most Orange County political and business leaders' lists of top candidates for the job, many said they had expected Deukmejian to review with them a so-called "short list" of candidates before making the appointment. There were at least a dozen serious applicants for the job, and perhaps four or five had strong backing from powerful Orange County interests.
Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim), for example, learned of the appointment Thursday as he was telling a reporter that he had not backed any of the candidates as yet but instead would wait until Deukmejian's staff whittled the list of applicants down to a handful. Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) made similar comments Thursday morning.
Both senators, however, said they were pleased with the selection of Vasquez.
"I'm delighted," Bergeson said. "I think he's a person oriented to solutions, has experience in government, and I think he understands the problems. I think that's what brings about the solutions."
Seymour said: "I think he will be able to hit the ground running as far as going for reelection in '88. There can be no doubt that the man's got impeccable credentials."
Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) said Vasquez's newly established residence in south Orange County should help him deal with the volatile growth issues in that part of the district.
"That's going to be his home; that's going to be the area he represents," Campbell said. "I think he's a talented young man, and I think he will be able to prove he can well and faithfully represent the 3rd Supervisorial District."
Others weren't as happy with the appointment. Lawyer John Hanna, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, predicted that Vasquez would face a tough opponent in 1988.
Hanna said Vasquez's lack of experience in elective office and his close ties to Deukmejian suggest that his choice was purely political.
"Having worked in the office doesn't necessarily qualify you to be the boss," Hanna said. "I hope he does a good job. He's a bright guy who will bring a lot of energy and hard work to the office. But I'm sure he'll have a major opponent in 1988."
Orange County leaders react to the Vasquez appointment. Part II, Page 1.