Gov. Susan Kennedy

In 2003, voters shouted Hasta la vista, baby! to Gov. Gray Davis and his whole staff, including Cabinet Secretary Susan Kennedy, recalling the lot of them. At the same time, voters elected as governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on his promises to “blow up the boxes” of government bureaucracy and waste and “terminate” the deficits in the state’s perpetually unbalanced budget.

In 2005, Schwarzenegger appointed Kennedy as his Chief of Staff, the second most powerful position in his administration. She was back. Not surprisingly, Schwarzenegger’s policies, which for two years had slightly tamed the state budget and been moderately pro-business, in 2005 veered in a Gray Davis direction, resulting in record unbalanced budgets and anti-business hyper-regulation, such as AB32.

Today the L.A. Times ran a profile of Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedy clan the governor married into). The best quotes:

Rarely venturing out into public, she instills fear in legions of state workers, lobbyists and lawmakers even though many would not recognize the 5-foot-2, wiry woman with close-cropped blond hair who is likely to be remembered as the most enduring force in state government of the last decade….

But Schwarzenegger stuck with her, trusting Kennedy, 49, to wield his authority so completely that they came to be described as “governor and governess,” or “the big governor and the little governor.” As his administration draws to a close, Kennedy has attained near-mythic status as a partisan only to winning….

In California, Kennedy built a career as a hyper-organized strategist for liberal causes: women’s rights, the environment, abortion rights. She loved mapping out strategies to woo supporters and defeat opponents in hard-fought campaigns….

She rose in Democratic politics, working as communications director for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to whom she is still close….

[Kennedy lives] in a two-story house built on a hillside up a steep, winding road in Marin County, with a stunning view over Mt. Tamalpais, and an infinity pool on a deck below….She… juggles calls on two phones through her 90-minute commute to Sacramento in a black, state-owned Chrysler Sebring.

From the point that she strides into the Capitol to lead the daily senior staff meeting, Kennedy is firmly at the center of power. She remains by Schwarzenegger’s side in negotiations with legislative leaders when their staffs have been ordered to leave. Lawmakers may call her first on an issue — and dial Schwarzenegger if they cannot reach her.

“It is like a marriage, in the office,” said Schwarzenegger….

Has Arnold upbraided her, as he did his wife, Maria, about not violating the law he signed against using a cell phone in a car?

In 11 months, Kennedy finally will be gone from the governor’s office, after a decade running  California government. The next governor will appoint a different staff. That’s for sure.

Isn’t it?

– John Seiler

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