Photo by Robert Burroughs
Larry Thomas, Otto Bos, Pete Wilson. Thomas is the perfect advance man for Wilson’s clean-cut pugnacity; he even looks like Wilson.
"If Jimmy Carter had set out in 1973 not to run for president but to wage a proxy fight for control of the Anaconda Corporation, he'd have had the same people with him. Hamilton Jordan, Jody Powell, Rob Lipshutz, Charles Kirbo, and the rest — take away Jimmy Carter, and his lieutenants were men without political direction. They all seemed more than decent people, stunningly good at their campaign assignments, yet not quite public men. Most of them were eager to say they had not been in politics before Jimmy and wouldn't be in politics after Jimmy."
— Christopher Lydon, Atlantic Monthly, July, 1977
Pete Wilson. “He looks like the kind of man whose mother combs his hair."
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Otto Bos, Mayor Pete Wilson's new, young press secretary, was leaning back expansively, telling a reporter about how he had been the head zucchini cooker with Del Monte Foods in Oakland before he became a front-line politics writer for the San Diego Union when Bob White, Wilson's executive assistant, rushed into the office red-faced.
Finding himself face-to-face with a reporter, White looked terror-stricken. He raised a sheaf of papers in front of him and said three times quickly, "We're low-key here." Then he headed for the back door of the press secretary's office a door leading directly into his own quarters, and disappeared.
Otto Bos, Bob White. When Bob White finally did consent to an interview, he insisted that Otto Bos sit in on it. "Otto talked me into this,” he shrugged.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Bos looked around his office to see if any other bullets were going to come zinging through, and then said tentatively, "I think he'll see you. Don't worry."
The 33-year-old press secretary leaned back again and put his hands behind his head. "Now, where was I?" He went on to recount how he had served in a M.A.S.H. unit in Vietnam, and then came home to protest the war in full uniform, but only once. "I got my picture taken by the FBI and everything," he said, grinning.
From top to bottom: Mike Madigan, Otto Bos, Richard Garcia, Ellsworth Pryor, Pam Parks, Barbara Stemple, Judy Hyde. (See Aides-de-Camp section below.)
Photo by Robert Burroughs
The door to White's office flew open again, and White's red face appeared. He looked at Bos and at the reporter.
"I need to see you," he said to Box.
White, 35, has been with Wilson longer than any of the mayor's advisors, and has made it a personal policy not to get within writing distance of reporters. He ducked back into his office, then suddenly reappeared. "Listen," White said to the reporter, "I hear you've been calling a lot of people around town about me. They're all calling me up. Look, I'm not the candidate, and I'm not very interesting." The door shut.
"Don't worry," Bos said again, "he'll let you see him." The the press secretary added, "Did you know I used to wash limosines for a living?"
The issues Wilson has chosen to push to the forefront of his campaign-tax policies, the role of public employees, California's business climate—have not yet gathered the symbolic power that Governor Jerry Brown has been able to produce almost flippantly. So his staff has presented Wilson, thus far, as solid, sure, dependable, without need for symbolism or flash.
It is still too early to predict whether Pete Wilson’s appeal as a leader will reach any further than the length of his hair (which he has allowed to grow longer as the campaign approaches). Such a candidate, who cannot depend on the power of charisma, is especially dependent on his staff to prep him. and to reflect his own depth, or his lack of depth. Clearly, the potential of the Wilson campaign rests as much with a competent staff as with the candidate himself.
When Bob White finally did consent to an interview, he insisted that Otto Bos sit in on it. "Otto talked me into this,” he shrugged.
White seems more ill at ease, more kinetic than the other office workers in the mayoral suite. Most of the newer staffers exude an air of easy confidence. Through these doors only winners walk, and the presence of that most precocious of winners, Pete Wilson, can be felt everywhere.
Curiously, the walls of White’s office are decorated with moody paintings of old men. with one exception: a large, framed color photograph of a bikini-clad woman watching a surfer. A stereo is softly playing classical music.
On White’s coffee table is Doris Kearns’ intimate biography, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. As an opening. White mentions he read Passages recently, a book about the predictable crises of adult life. He asks if you are approaching 30 yet. and waves his hand. “Read it,” he gasps.
Though White does not often use the term, he defines himself as Wilson’s chief-of-staff. “That’s the working title.” White objects to journalists who frequently credit him with being Wilson’s closest confidant, along with Larry Thomas, ‘former mayoral press secretary who now handles campaign media duties. (After one such article. Thomas had a T-shirt made that read, “I’m The One The Mayor Listens To Most.") But White has been with Wilson nine years, longer than any other advisor .and long enough to prove himself a fundamental link in Wilson’s chain of successes.
White’s anxiety about the press, especially any press other than the San Diego Union, is understandable. Pete Wilson is at the beginning of what may be a long climb toward the governorship, and perhaps even beyond. Wilson is, in fact, at a stage in his career similar to Jimmy Carter’s tentative beginnings in Georgia. During the first year of Carter’s presidential campaign, few people took him seriously, including the press. No one could imagine the soft-spoken Georgian having the internal combustion needed for the long-distance race; consequently, he and his staff received serious scrutiny only after he began to inch ahead of the pack. Wilson, another fresh face, can. as a gubernatorial candidate, present himself as an intriguing mystery. And mystery is the stuff of which political futures are often made.
The few articles that have appeared outside of San Diego, notably Jeanie Kasindorf's glowing New West report and Robert Merry’s admiring piece in the National Observer, have described Wilson as embodying a new spirit within the Republican party. He is the new boy in town, untainted by Watergate and other past Republican sins.
“He looks like the kind of man whose mother combs his hair." Merry quoted the 12-year-old son of one Wilson intimate. “But.” Merry added. “San Diegans will tell you he has the determination of a Jimmy Carter and the political wiles to match.” Last week. U.S. Senate Republican leader Howard Baker included Wilson in a list of II possible candidates for the 1980 presidential nomination.
Yet, on the stump Wilson is. at “Bob had a lot of the native characteristics of a leader.” recalls Benton Hart, principal of La Mesa’s Helix High School during White's years as a student there. “He was outgoing, a good listener, a bub-bling-over type of individual. While he wasn't super-creative, if you handed him a project you could count on his getting things done.”
Even in those early years White seemed to have mastered the arts of confidence and compromise. Says Hart: “When it came to planning rallies or dances. Bob would argue for his own way, but he was smart enough not to go down a blind alley with it. He’d just try to create an atmosphere in which his ideas would be accepted and then he’d pursue them as far as he could go.”
Another high school official who saw White at work was equally impressed with his abilities. “Bob came back in 1964 to help organize an alumni reunion,” remembers Robert Woods, a Helix alumni advisor. “He was by far the best secretary we ever had. We used to get 40. maybe 50 grads a year at those reunions. When Bob came on we had hundreds and hundreds.” In the four years since he had graduated from high school White had learned another secret—the importance of establishing a network of friends. “As an organizer. I’d rate him A-plus: for line of bull. A-plus.” remembers Woods. “He had a huge group of friends and they did a lot of the work. too. In fact.” Woods says with a smile. “I think he sat on his can and had the girls do most of the calling. But I know he did a great job because the year he left the whole darn thing fell down again.”
At San Diego State White was active in his fraternity. Sigma Chi and narrowly lost a 1965 campaign for student body president. It was his last attempt to lead the band; from then on he was to be a dependable first-chair trumpet for her campaigners.
After college White toured the country for 18 months as a representative of Sigma Chi. which, he says, was a racist organization he helped integrate. Those were the years when campuses were exploding like a chain of firecrackers, but the protests seem now not to have affected him that much. “I’m just a little older than the scarred generation.
“I’ll tell you the Bob White philosophy,” he continues. “If I want something changed I work from within. If I see someone marching around, it really doesn’t affect me. I never marched, except in the Coast Guard."
In 1968 White did precinct work for the local Republican party, a job landed through Leon Parma, a conservative financier and personal friend of Jerry Ford. That December he joined then-Assemblyman Pete Wilson at the State Capitol. For three years White commuted between Sacramento and Wilson’s El Cajon field office, until he was dispatched here permanently for the 71 mayoral campaign. White remembers that time almost reverently, especially the period which precipitated Wilson’s decision to make the unexpected run for mayor.
In describing what he calls the most extraordinary experience he ever had with Wilson. White’s voice lowers intimately. “It happened to us after Pete’s re-election to the assembly in December of 1970. I had run the campaign at night and had the Assembly work during the daytime. We hadn't had too tough of campaign. We’d won with 75 percent of the vote or something outrageous. even though there were more Democrats than Republicans in the district." White recalls how an idea suddenly struck him as he was driving to work. “I started thinking...what if Pete ran for mayor?" There was simply no political sense to it; San Diego's mayors were additionally part-time figureheads; would be. on face value, a dead-end for a promising young politician. Yet, there was a feeling in the wind, and some concrete evidence, at San Diego’s growing urban problems. along with Nixon’s New Federalism and federal revenue sharing, were going to make the mayor’s office important.
“I rushed to the office and wrote it a big chart," White almost whispers. ‘‘I haven’t ever told anybody this. I wonder if it should be attributed. I’ll probably come out looking like a jerk; that's why I never taIk to the press. Anyway, I worked it these plans on a yellow pad—the pros and cons of running for mayor, who we would get to back us, the whole bit."
That afternoon White drove to e offices of then-Mayor Frank Curran and walked around to see how things were laid out, how decisions were made. “I started thinking of how Pete was going to live on $12,000 a year if he won." When Wilson called that night from the airport on a flight layover, White teasingly presented his idea, He was surprised when Wilson wanted to talk about it on his return San Diego. “I ended up at this girl’s house and we were going to make some dinner and she said, Bob. what's the matter? I told her it had been a heavy day. I was really up, I was really down. I was really creative and I had had the biggest high I'd ever had in my life. But I really didn't want to share that day with her or anybody else."
As it turned out, Wilson himself had been thinking about running for mayor. “We think a lot alike." White says, “but I tell you we had never even talked about it before. Pete suddenly had lists, plans. He’d stay up all night probably one night a week filing legal pads with a campaign outline." Two days after White and Wilson first discussed the possibility, Wilson was off and running. “I know damn well that he knew I knew he was going to run. I thought I was being brilliant and creative and he was already making plans." White is effusive, glowing.
Even with his obvious pride in being so in tune with Wilson's thoughts. White protests that he is not Wilson’s alter ego. that he has not subordinated his own life to Wilson's, and does not live vicariously through the mayor. “That’s why I never give interviews. Reporters are trying to say that all the time.”
Wilson would have to start from ground level in his mayoral campaign. The men he found himself up against—John Butler. Jack Walsh. Tom Horn—were all better known than he. Wilson was also less experienced at gauging the minds of 160.000 voters, at convincing the city’s businessmen to open their pocket books to him. at campaigning and scheduling appearances before the right clubs and luncheon groups.
Wilson sent White, then 29. to the home front. White’s knowledge of San Diego, his familiarity with the right people, and his attractive, youthful image helped Wilson into the mayor’s scat.
Under the mayor’s tutelage, White ushered in the personnel to transform almost overnight a part-time, largely ceremonial position into a power base. The mayor’s office became the hub of power around which business, the city council, and the media began to circle.
White held a tight reign on who could see Wilson. The complaints came loud and fast; they came from businessmen who would never again wield the influence they once had. “Wilson’s proven he has the people’s support." says Jim Williams, an aide to former-Mayor Curran and now a lobbyist for the Building Contractor’s Association. “He beat Lee Hubbard (Wilson’s opponent for re-election in 1975) decisively. I just can’t fault him. If he wants to put a big bolt on that door of his, it’s his business."
Says White; “That’s a bum rap. There are a lot of people who have input to him. like Mike Walsh, Common Cause; Clarence Pendleton of the Urban League has an open door around here. My point is, I wouldn't be doing my job if I insulated him. I’m sure some people coming in here feel I’m a mean, arbitrary son-of-a-bitch. Well, yeah, I am sometimes. We run an efficient ship."
But White’s job is much more than that of a $33,000-a-year office manager. He is, some say, Wilson’s social conscience, the mayor’s main connection to the worlds of business and society. “One of Bob’s greatest political strengths is his business contacts," says Larry Lawrence, owner of the Hotel del Coronado and an accomplished political fundraiser. “He knows wines, colombard grapes, everything right down to the monogram on the silver." adds one city council aide. “Bob is many things the mayor isn’t. He tells Pete what parties to go to, who to see socially. That kind of stuff is just unimportant to Pete." Several of those who spoke of White’s knowledge and fluidity in social settings pin his success on his fraternity background. “As far as I’m concerned, Bob White is, just a grown-up frat-rat," said one.
Says another observer: “He knows that if people socialize with him, it’ll be harder for them to stab him, and the mayor, in the back. He's a little like a loan shark in the way he deals out his affections, and he turns into a shark if he feels the office is being done wrong. Bob is an artist at calling in the cards when he needs to."
White is also known for his sometimes heated temper. One reporter recalls: “Several years ago, one of us wrote up a story about how Wilson had missed more council meetings than any councilperson. The paper played the story real big. you know, a five-column headline that read something like. ‘MAYOR LEADS COUNCIL IN ABSENCES.’ Well, the paper hadn’t been on the streets for 15 minutes w hen White comes storming into the press room waving the paper above his head. ‘You son-of-a-bitch.’ he yells. ‘This is the worst press we've gotten since Pete was elected, and you’re going to pay for it.’ ”
But his emotions also tip the other way. “He’ll yell at you one moment and cry on your shoulder the next,” one businessman says. White’s personal friends say his effusiveness is real. “Bob’s one of the sincerest people I know," says Dan Bamberg, an attorney who’s known White since their State College days. White was named the Junior Chamber of Commerce’s “Young Man of the Year" in 1974. and chosen as San Diego State's “Outstanding Alumnus of 1975."
Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally often points out that by 1990 the population of California will be over 60 percent black and brown, making it what Dymally calls “the first third-world state in the nation." White balks at the suggestion that Wilson's homogeneous staff may not be fully preparing him to be the governor of such a culturally diverse state. He points to Wilson’s many minority appointments to municipal government. including Richard Garcia and Ellsworth Pryor, assistants to the mayor for community relations, who deal specifically with the brown and black communities.
Rather than exposing Wilson directly to social problems. White says the office depends on experts. There is less emphasis on arranging direct talks with minority leaders, for instance, than upon social scientists from local universities. “We get several in one room and get them talking." The approach. White says, is part of the reason the mayor’s office runs so efficiently.
White's own approach to advising Wilson and making decisions is that “everything comes down to dollars and cents. There aren’t that many issues that could even be considered moral issues." White does believe forced busing is wrong, but he talks more about how expensive it is than the effects it may have on children. “I don’t look at Black’s Beach as a moral issue. I look at it as a safety hazard, a cop issue, how much it costs the city."
As for his ongoing relationship with Wilson, White smiles. “We’re obviously good buddies. He’s a kick in the ass. The British government sent Pedro and me to a conference. After 18 hours on the plane, we landed and Pete said, ‘My son, I’m going to show you Britain!’ And he did just that. He’d make the taxi driver stop, and he’d point to a building and say, ‘Now, that structure was built in 1726 by 307 men. It took them three years to build it with 308,000 bricks.’ The taxi driver said. ‘God, I didn't know that.’ "
After the interview. White walks down to the city parking lot. whipping around corners like the last car on a roller coaster. He clearly loves his station in life, his power. He not only knows how to be at the right place at the right time. but knows how to stay on the track. Sauntering up to his cream-white Mercedes he remarks. “A city truck hit my car a few days ago, caused $300 damage. Can you imagine that? A city truck."
On the 22nd floor of the Crocker Bank building, directly across from the city building. Larry Thomas sits in Wilson's spartan campaign office pecking at a tiny Spanish-made typewriter. He is leaning forward from a gaudy, velveteen lounge chair pulled up to his desk. Crammed in behind him is a folding table for his secretary. Stacks of cardboard filing boxes spoil the sweeping view of the city offered by the single bay window. The office is typical of the contrast between Thomas and White.
The 29-year-old Thomas views himself less as a partner in power than as an objective journalist, an ombudsman to the press, and his past has prepared him for the job. If a royal court of journalists was ever chosen to reign in San Diego, Thomas would be the prince-in-waiting; the bloodline is pure. His father, Ed. was for years a top executive at the San Diego Union and editor from 1968 to 1970, and is still in the business, running the Copley Press’s Borrego Sun. And while Larry's schooling (Mesa College and San Diego State) may strike some as a bit like walking with mere mortals, he was named one of the best journalism students in the country during his years at State.
On weekends he broke into the professional ranks by filing stories with the United Press International wire service and churned out feature stories for the Copley News Service. At the same time, he hooked up with the newly formed news department at KPBS-TV, where he worked with news editor Peter Kaye. (Kaye later became Gerald Ford's presidential campaign secretary, and is presently an associate editor at the Union.) Under Kaye's guidance, Thomas helped produce two award-winning documentaries.
He joined the Union staff in 1971 and became a politics writer, one of the more prestigious beats. He padded along after the ten men who battled for the mayor's job that year, and made an impression on Pete Wilson, the candidate who walked away with the prize. Little more than a month after Wilson’s election. Thomas, at 24, was appointed the mayor’s press secretary at a starting salary of S16,500 a year.
Thomas refused to accept the low profile usually adopted by press secretaries. In 1975, he was elected president of the Public Relations Club of San Diego, and the next year was chosen to head Sigma Delta Chi, the city’s journalism society. Though it raised the eyebrows of a few working writers to see a press secretary appointed president of a group composed mainly of reporters who do battle daily with public relations people. Thomas managed to deflect the skepticism. “He's been creative, done things no other president has done," says James Julian, a veteran journalism professor at San Diego State who instructed Thomas in several courses. "He could have swept a lot of things under the rug, but he’s chosen to deal with them instead. He acts with the zeal you'd expect from a newsman, not a flack."
And that has been Thomas's most priceless asset. Like few other joumalists-turned-promoters, Thomas has been able to blur the line between the two occupations. “Larry is the most talented guy on the mayor's staff." says George Mitrovich, former press secretary to U.S. Senator Charles Goodell. “He could easily be press secretary for a senator or president."
Thomas says his first love is the media, and that he will probably return to newswriting if and when he leaves Wilson. “I have personally seen too many have-typewriters-will-travel types who will travel from candidate to candidate. That's not my future," he insists.
In straddling the line between journalism and public relations. Thomas is known for being as tough on reporters as they are on him, pursuing facts, he says, rather than image.
"I don’t take the view that I can program a good article about Pete." he says, “or. after it’s published, pop open a champagne bottle and congratulate myself on what a good job I did in guiding a reporter."
Thomas is also respected by the reporters who work with him at city hall. But he doesn’t restrict his show of skill to the rank and file, and has made it a point to cultivate relationships with the top management of the Copley Press. Says one newsman: "Larry's always one up on reporters. And he and White both have the ability to call up Jerry Warren (editor of the Union). That's why they go to dinner with Helen Copley and Warren. It keeps the trunk line open to the paper, and they use it a lot." Thomas covers the other bases, too; he is close to Neil Morgan, a senior editor at the Evening Tribune and confidant of publisher Helen Copley, and spends some of his leisure time with Tom Blair, Morgan's close assistant.
Still, for all his commitment to the office of the mayor. Thomas is said to maintain a degree of detachment from his job that White seems incapable of. As one observer says. “Thomas, being married, has more of an independent life to lead."
Last month Thomas jumped out of city government into state campaigning and moved his typewriter and dictionary across the street. His duties remain essentially the same: speech writing, handling phone calls from the press, doing advance work. But this time the turf is much bigger, the new grounds uncharted, the contacts unsolidified.
The political campaign model that Thomas says gives him the most cause for hope is the Carter campaign. If a relatively unknown governor can be elected president, Thomas ventures, a relatively unknown mayor can be elected governor of California. Thomas points to a map on the wall. “I spend two days a week traveling, and my main emphasis so far has been on L.A. and Sacramento. I'm trying to get word out to the press." He refers to these regions, along with Orange County and the Bay Area, as important “markets." Rather than a purely scientific approach for testing his product. Thomas says, “I test the areas with my head. At this point we don’t have the resources to do more than call on the friendly people in key positions around the state."
Thomas resents the currently popular assumption that a candidate must use symbolic gestures to reach people. “You don’t necessarily need these devices." He says that the disparity between Governor Brown’s symbolic and his actual performance has alienated large portions of the electorate, and it is those people Thomas is after. He hopes to increase the number of disenchanted voters by hammering at what he believes is Brown’s credibility gap: w hat looks like a Zen administrator is really the old-style politician “ready to desert the state after 16 months to run for president."
Thomas describes the main campaign goal now as the Carter “snow ball" effect, in that Wilson will be seen as the Republican candidate working hardest for the nomination, traveling the most, speaking the most. “To use Pete's phrase, he’s terrorizing the state."
Like White, Thomas defends Wilson’s preparation to be governor of the first “third-world state,” by pointing to what he calls Wilson’s willingness to increase participation of minorities in municipal government. “I don’t know how you go about preparing somebody better than being mayor of a city. Sure beats spending a night at the Pink Palace," he says, referring to Brown’s well-publicized visit to a low-income housing project last fall.
Brown was recently quoted as saying. “Binding arbitration, that's not going to get Wilson many votes." Brown was apparently making a comment on Wilson's somewhat bland campaign style. Thomas just waves that off. “May not," he says. “Most people think binding arbitration is something that keeps a snow ski on, but it’s going to mean something to voters in Oakland when it starts bleeding their pocketbooks. People understand issues when they start paying for them."
Thomas, again like White, tends to focus on Wilson’s dollars-and-cents issues. “When Brown gets up in front of the Culinary Union leaders and says putting money into tourism is like raking leaves in the wind, that is not something that Culinary Union leaders appreciate." So, when Wilson supports tourism, the Culinary Union leaders are going to support Wilson, no matter how much flash Wilson seems to lack when compared with Brown.
Assuming Wilson gets the nomination. Thomas wants to force a debate between Brown and Wilson. He is involved now with pushing legislation which would provide for such a mandatory debate. And he dismisses the common assumption that Brown would eat Wilson alive in such a debate, because of charisma alone.
“I don’t think Brown has TV charisma," Thomas says flatly. “And I don’t think it was necessarily TV that sold him. He’s quite good at the 30-second spots; the flippancy works for him then, but there’s no guarantee that people will stay enamored with him over an hour debate." Thomas uses the Mondale/ Dole debate as an example: Dole's acid tongue, entertaining during the first part of the debate, ended up looking insubstantial next to Mondale’s stolid approach.
Thomas insists that he has never arranged TV coaching for Wilson, and says there are no immediate plans for bringing in a media expert. Keye, Donna, Pearlstein, a Los Angeles PR firm, is providing some media and advertising advice. Paul Keye (another of Thomas's many friends in the communications field) developed the “Pete" and “Re-Pete” buttons used successfully in past campaigns. Interestingly, Keye handled Jerry Brown's media account in the 1974 primaries.
Physically and temperamentally. Thomas is the perfect advance man for Wilson’s clean-cut pugnacity; he even looks like Wilson. (He shaved his full beard when he became campaign press secretary.) He talks with the Wilsonian jerk of the head; his mannerisms are the same, and so is his reputation in his field; respected, sometimes envied, even a bit feared.
Though Thomas is less willing to talk about his personal relations with Wilson than White is. he seems to view Wilson in much the same way: a role-model, a father figure.
Not long ago. Jerry Brown told a reporter that Wilson would be his likely opponent. “Several months ago," grins Thomas, “I ran into Brown in a bar across from the capitol. I’d been partying too much the night before, so I’m not exactly sure what he said, but I think he told me the same thing."
Some reporters have speculated that Brown's statement might, in fact, help Wilson. “If they mean the wish is father to the thought. 1 don't know. We’ll just have to see," Thomas says.
With or without Brown’s “endorsement." Thomas, White, and Wilson never talk about the possibility of losing. Habitual winners seldom do. If there is a touch of doubt somewhere in Thomas's psyche, it is well buried. “I should have charged a consultation fee for this interview," he says, “now that I’m in the private sector."
In purely symbolic terms, the greening of the mayor’s office seemed complete in 1975 when Pete Wilson moved himself and his staff from the tenth floor office space they shared with the city council to more expansive offices one floor above the council. Not that they didn't need the additional space. Since taking over in 1971, Wilson has more than doubled the size of his staff. While former-Mayor Frank Curran managed to get by with three aides, Wilson’s brain trust now numbers seven.
As the staff has grown, so has the budget. In 1969, Curran kept his office running on $86,838; the mayor himself was paid $12,000. his chief-of-staff took home $14,560. Curran’s youngest aide was Jim Williams, then 47-years-old. This year, over 285,000 taxpayer dollars will be paid out in salaries to keep the office running. Since 1971 the mayor’s salary has become a bit more commensurate with the work he does; he now makes $25,000 a year. Surprisingly, that amount is equal to or less than almost every one of his assistants. And those assistants are, with one exception, about ten years younger than the 43-year-old mayor. They include:
Mike Madigan. a 33-year-old veteran of city government who spent several years in the engineering and community development programs before moving up to assist former city manager Kimball Moore. Madigan served three years as a line officer in the Navy before taking a $25.000-a-year post as Wilson’s assistant for programs and policy. Madigan is highly regarded for his finesse in the nuts-and-bolts work of the mayor’s office. Larry Lawrence, owner of the Hotel del Coronado, calls him “by far the most effective member of the staff, an administrative genius." Madigan has recently been tabbed as a favorite to assume leadership of the Economic Development Corporation. a non-profit agency charged with attracting new businesses to San Diego.
Otto Bos. another 33-year-old, took over press secretary duties this June after six years with the San Diego Union. Like his predecessor, Larry Thomas, Bos distinguished himself as a politics writer, having spent three years covering Wilson and the council as a city hall reporter. A native of Holland, Bos brings the most varied background to the office. In addition to driving limousines, cooking vegetables, and serving in Vietnam, Bos worked as a playground director in a black neighborhood in San Francisco and did a short stint as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Richard Garcia, a Chicano, and Ellsworth Pryor, a black, serve as the mayor’s community relations assistants. The 33-year-old Garcia, who was born and raised in East Los Angeles, got his introduction to government in the city manager’s office, where he interned as a Yale University National Urban Fellow. Pryor, at 55, is the elder statesman of the group. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska and worked for the Internal Revenue Service before joining the mayor’s staff in 1972.
Pam Parks, also 33, helped organize Wilson’s campaign and shortly thereafter moved in to take over duties as Wilson's appointments secretary. In that position she helps the mayor select potential nominees for the numerous advisory boards and committees around which city government is built. She also works to assure that nominees are whisked into office with as little trouble as possible once they agree to serve. Parks previously worked for State Assemblyman Vic Visey.
Barbara Stemple and Judy Hyde have both been with Wilson longer than any of his executive assistants. Hyde became the mayor's confidential secretary after helping run Wilson’s Sacramento Assembly office. Stemple, who also worked in Sacramento, is now Bob White’s secretary.