California Forward remembers Bill Hauck

150 150 Jim Mayer

Bill Hauck was a man with many hats, but one heart.  He had many titles, but one quest.  Bill believed that government improves – and can do more to improve – the lives of the citizens it serves.

Bill’s professional positions put him in the center of decision-making – serving Speakers of the Assembly and the Governor.  As the longest serving trustee of the California State University system, the largest public university system in the nation, Bill guided fellow trustees, advised chancellors and selected campus presidents.  As the CEO of the California Business Roundtable, his counsel was sought by legislative leaders and governors.

Then there were the jobs he didn’t get paid to do.  In the mid-1990s, when the end of the Cold War sent California’s economy into a deep freeze and it became clear that the State was losing its ability to solve difficult problems, he chaired the California Constitution Revision Commission.  The Commission was burdened by the same partisan wrangling and power skirmishes that defined contemporary dis-governance.  Still, the Commission’s recommendations were pragmatic and promising.  They were a comprehensive prescription for reforms to problems that still confront California, available for leaders who want to lead.

In the mid-2000s, with California’s economy still reeling from the dot-com bust and after the California Performance Review delivered 1,200 recommendations in a 2,400-page report, Governor Schwarzenegger turned to Bill Hauck and Joanne Kozberg to co-chair the California Performance Review Commission.

The Commission conducted eight crowded public hearings throughout California, with Bill often defusing emotional absolutism with reasoned civility.  The Commission’s 11-page report sharply narrowed the list of priorities for the Governor, focusing first on improving the business operations of government, increasing the use of technology and investing in state personnel to improve efficiency and create a “culture of service.”

Public service was Bill’s calling and his call.

From the inception of California Forward, Bill was all in.  He believed it would take a civic-led effort to make the kinds of politically balanced changes recommended by the Commissions he had led.  He believed that the public interest reforms required public interest champions.

Bill was a lifelong Democrat often mistaken to be a Republican.  He would talk with anyone, regardless of their view.  He was honest about disagreement – but not disrespectful.

He never expected change from the center would be easy, but always believed it was possible.  He would put himself in harm’s way if asked, and the only real defeat was giving up.

Being pragmatic, being bipartisan, being civil does not mean that he was dispassionate.  He just had perspective.  He loved the Legislature as an institution and understood the criticality of executive leadership. He was a strong supporter of citizen’s redistricting, top-two primaries and term limit reforms.

He supported government spending to change lives, but knew there would never be enough money to avoid the hard decisions that lead to priorities and performance.  He helped to architect CA Fwd’s budget reform proposals, including a mechanism for managing volatile revenue to protect essential programs from boom and bust budgets.

He believed that education was the most essential ingredient for advancing society and individuals.  And when not governing entire systems, he would patiently mentor, advise and when necessary console those who were younger but otherwise like him were trying to make a difference.

Bill Hauck was past retirement age, but not willing to retire, even when starkly reminded of his own mortality.  With Bill, it was service first, and last.


Jim Mayer

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