SACRAMENTO — Assemblyman Bill Campbell says he didn't run for office seeking glory or a long career. He wants to change the rules under which California is doing business with business.
Orange County's newest member of the state Assembly, Campbell sees himself as the embodiment of the sort of common sense "citizen-legislator" voters seem hungry for.
He never held public office before. He has raised a family. He owns a chain of Taco Bell restaurants in Orange County. He plans to stick in politics only the six years he's now allowed under the term limitation law.
In short, the Villa Park Republican--who was sworn into office Monday along with the 79 other members of the Assembly--sees a job to do in the state Capitol and then he'll get out.
He's already taken off like a man in a sprint.
While some freshmen lawmakers were fumbling around Monday finding the closest latrine, Campbell was introducing his first bill, a measure designed to eliminate capital gains taxes for Californians investing in California businesses or property.
His business acumen has already come in handy. Campbell negotiated a cheaper lease on the district office he inherited from his predecessor; he plans to use the savings to fulfill a campaign promise to open a satellite office in South County.
Aside from economic issues, Campbell hopes to focus on eduction with legislation to shift the focus back to the three R's. "I'm a back-to-basics guy," Campbell said.
Campbell vaulted to his new $75,000-a-year post first by eking out a 318-vote victory over Republican Jim Beam in the March GOP primary. He then sailed to a 2-to-1 win last month over outgunned Democrat Jack Roberts in the 71th Assembly District, the most Republican district in the state.
Born and raised in Pico Rivera, Campbell is the small-town kid made good. He got an electrical engineering degree at Loyola Marymount University and a masters of business administration from Harvard. He worked in the aerospace business with TRW and Rockwell before joining a firm that ran dry-cleaning and Taco Bell franchises.
Now he owns numerous franchises along with his wife, Mary, who will remain behind in Orange County on legislative days to run the family business.
Residents of Villa Park since 1974, the Campbells were a pretty typical suburban family. Their three sons, all now grown, set the pace. Campbell and his wife have done just about everything in terms of community involvement, from youth sports to YMCA.
As for politics, Campbell never had done much other than write a few checks to candidates and become a member of the upper-crust Orange County Lincoln Club a few years back.
A lifelong Republican, Campbell "always knew" he'd give "some service to the community. The energy I devoted to raising kids now can be focused in the state Capitol."
His major motivation was his own frustrations as a businessman dealing with the government bureaucracy. Campbell contends that, despite a healthy uptick in the state economy, California remains a bad place to do business. "I thought maybe I can go up to Sacramento and change the rules."
An example from Campbell's own experiences: Last March he tried to get a building permit to remodel a 1,700-square-foot storefront in an Anaheim Hills commercial center for a Taco Bell. Campbell figures the process should have taken a month, but he says it stretched until September because of persnickety city bureaucrats. He figures the planning department wanted to boost their fees by posing unreasonable hurdles. Ultimately he paid $35,000 for the permit.
Campbell doesn't plan any legislative payback from on high in Sacramento.
He knows local governments in California have been scrambling for money ever since the state pulled away huge chunks of funding in the early 1990s. Campbell wants to look at measures to return some of that money to the cities and counties in exchange for caps on business and developer fees and speedier permit processing.
On the education front, Campbell hopes to shift the state's focus on bilingual education toward total immersion in English-only programs instead of the current gradual move away from a newcomer's native language.