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Where are they now: Assemblyman Fred Keeley

During much of Fred Keeley’s six-year stint in the Assembly, the state
seemed to be in a continuous crisis, culminating in California’s disastrous
experiment with electricity deregulation. The electricity crisis cost the
state $50 billion, fueled the belief that California had been mercilessly
gouged by an array of power companies and ultimately played a role in the
recall of former Gov. Gray Davis. There were other crises, too–such as the
flawed, $95 million Oracle software contract, assorted budget woes that
included a historic deficit and a shifting political landscape that
ultimately put Davis in the doghouse. Into all this stepped Keeley, a Santa
Cruz-area Democrat who emerged as a high-profile problem-solver for Davis
and quickly became the go-to guy for crisis management.

Toward the end, in 2002, Davis offered him one of the toughest jobs in state
government, director of the Department of Finance, which he turned down. By
that time, Keeley was both physically and emotionally exhausted. “I
respectfully declined,” said Keeley, 55.

After a departing the Capitol–a reapportioned district made a long-planned
Senate run problematic–Keeley focused on the environmental issues that have
long been close to his heart. He became executive director of the Planning
and Conservation League, pushing environmental proposals to his former
colleagues. “I enjoyed it tremendously, and I did it for two years,” Keeley
says.

But the tug to get back into the political and fiscal fray proved too
strong. Santa Cruz County Treasurer Richard Bedal abruptly resigned. “There
wasn’t a problem or anything, he just decided to retire after two and a half
terms. When there’s a vacancy in local government, the board of supervisors
fills the vacancy until the next election, and I got a call from them and I
said I would love to do it. I had been a supervisor in Santa Cruz for eight
years and I had lived there since 1977, so I knew the area.”

He may not be in Sacramento, but he still deals with state issues, usually
in telephone calls with former colleagues. “I still get a fair amount of
calls from Sacramento to talk about budget issues,” he says. “The job in
Sacramento was largely a policy job, and my thirst for policy has not been
quenched.”

So what would it take to get him back to Sacramento?

“In a Democratic administration, a position involving environmental policy
would be very interesting to me,” he says.


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