Peter Detwiler, for the past two decades the staff director of the Senate Local Government Committee, has received the Distinguished Service Award for his efforts on legislation of involving local and regional government.
Detwiler received the honor at the Annual California Association of LAFCOs conference on Sept. 4.
Detwiler has been involved in local and regional government issues for decades. In the 1970s, he worked for the San Diego LAFCO, then moved to Sacramento in May 1975 to join the governor’s Office of Planning and Research. He went to the Senate Local Government Committee in 1982.
“I’ve worked on LAFCO stuff for, what does that turn out to be, 36 years, Detweiler said. “They (LAFCOs) live at the intersection of dirt, dollars and duties—land use, public finance and government structure.”
“A lobbyist called me and said, ‘They usually give this to people who are retiring, are you leaving?’ No. Don’t take out all those bills you always wanted to run–put them back in the drawer. I’m real happy where I am,” Detwiler added.
Detwiler has been intimately involved in every legislative change – significant or mundane – affecting LAFCOs and procedures for reorganizing local governments in California, and is credited with playing a major role in enacting the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000. That law constitutes the most recent major overhaul and rewrite of LAFCO’s enabling statutes.
“Peter is inordinately accessible to LAFCO staff and Commissioners and unstinting in his willingness to provide advice and historical perspectives,” Bob Braitman, the executive director of the Santa Barbara LAFCO, noted in a statement reporting the award.
For Braitman, there’s also a personal connection.
“Bob Braitman’s father-in-law used to be my dad’s boss. They both worked for Santa Barbara County Health Department. Bob’s been really helpful with my parents. Dad had a long career in public service; he’s 88 now,” Detwiler said.
“He has served as a thoughtful, moderating force in terms of legislative change, a role which has become increasingly important as a result of term limits for legislators. Peter attends each CALAFCO conference to provide a legislative update,” Braitman added.
In the interest of modernizing local government, Detwiler has been involved in rewriting a principal act under which special districts operate in California, including . These include the statutes governing Community Services Districts, Fire Protection Districts, Mosquito Abatement and Vector Control Districts, Public Cemetery Districts, Recreation and Park Districts and, this year, County Service Areas.
“The process in each case involved appointing a working group of stakeholders and advisors to review an existing statute and update it to eliminate duplication and outdated sections, modernize the text with proper, current references and generally improve its usefulness. In addition to doing the hard work of rewriting the statutes with working group input, Peter is so skillful at moderating and mediating the sessions of the working groups that these principal act revisions have become committee-sponsored bills, with little or no detractors or disagreement,” Braitman said.
For Dewiler, the work is worth it.
“My dad always told me, you don’t get rich. You’re not in it for the money, you’re in it for the public service,” he said.