They've faced firestorms, floods and the nation's worst municipal bankruptcy, so a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors is hardly a job for the fainthearted.
Now Gov. Pete Wilson has to select someone to replace outgoing County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez from a list that--despite the difficulties of the job--has grown crowded with real contenders, non-contenders and wanna-bes.
What does it take to get the gubernatorial appointment? Here's a question-and-answer primer on how the selection process works.
Question: How do you apply?
Answer: A prospective applicant can write a letter to the governor's office (State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814) asking for the appointment to the post. Or one can call or write the governor's appointments office and ask for an application form, which asks a variety of questions: Any felonies? Political affiliations? Job experience?
Q. Who can apply?
A. Just about anyone living in the 3rd Supervisorial District can apply for the post. The district covers Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, the eastern half of Orange, Yorba Linda, Fullerton, Brea, La Habra and the unincorporated Foothill Ranch. But that's not all. Lots of candidates are being mentioned who don't live in the district. Under a county law passed half a century ago, a supervisor only has to live in the district at the time of swearing in and while serving in office.
Q. How does the selection process typically work?
A. Applications will go to the governor's appointments office, which is headed by Julia Justice, his appointments secretary. Details on all the applicants and those nominated by others are fed into a computer; a list is generated, and then reviewed by Justice and her staff. They will likely winnow it down to top contenders. Also participating in the selection process will be Bob White, Wilson's chief of staff. The final list will probably be those with a long history of service plus a strong background in finance, given the county's bankruptcy.
Q. When does the governor come into the picture?
A. After the final list is culled, it goes to Wilson, possibly with a recommendation for a top candidate picked by his staff. Insiders say Wilson varies in how he approaches every top appointment. Sometimes he goes along with staff, sometimes he consults his own associates, sometimes he comes up with a name that no one even thought of. In the case of Orange County, Capitol insiders say Wilson might consult with Donald Bren, the Irvine Co. chairman who is a campaign backer of the governor. Another potential influence--Supervisor Marian Bergeson, who as a state senator was Wilson's running mate in 1990 when she lost the lieutenant governor's race. In addition, Bergeson's former chief of staff in the Capitol, Kevin Sloat, now is Wilson's deputy chief of staff.
Q. Who is a likely choice?
A. The governor's office is mum on names, but officials in Orange County and the state Capitol suggest that Wilson will end up appointing a caretaker who would not seek reelection, thus freeing them to make potentially tough decisions to yank the county out of bankruptcy. They also say that Wilson will almost certainly tap someone with a good financial background who can grasp the complexities of what's needed to bail the county out of bankruptcy. The final choice almost certainly will be politically well-connected and have some past ties to Wilson.
Q. What is the timing for the appointment?
A. The governor's office is tight-lipped even on this subject, but most insiders say that Wilson almost certainly will do it by the end of the month or early next month to ensure a smooth transition when Vasquez leaves office Sept. 22.
Q. How much will the appointee make?
A. A tad more than $82,000.