Escondido, CA
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Remembering Assemblyman Bill Craven



I have said previously that I don’t hold much for politicians, but there were a couple who I admired. One of them was the late Bill Craven. Bill, a moderate Republican, had been a state senator for 20 years when term limits forced his retire­ment in 1998. He had been in the state Assembly for five years be­fore being elected to the Senate. Bill died at the age of 78 in July of 1999 a little more than a year after he left office.

Bill, who had served in the Ma­rines during World War Two (in the Pacific) and during the Korean conflict, mustered out of service as a major. He was personable and articulate, qualities that served him well as a politician. I really think that Bill was planning and hoping for a political career when he began to serve on the “fringes” of poli­tics as a member of the Oceanside city Planning Commission (for 12 years) and as administrative aide to county Supervisor Bob Cozens for eight years. Being involved, as an aide, in the bickering infighting of county supervisor battles must also have honed his later political skills.

I first met Bill in the mid-1960s when he was Cozens’s aide for the sprawling Fifth Supervisorial Dis­trict, of which Escondido was a part, and I then was managing edi­tor of the former Daily Times-Ad­vocate. We became acquaintances. Part of Bill’s job as aide was to visit the newspapers, chambers of commerce and city officials in the district to assure them that Super­visor Cozens’s office was ready to help when needed. Aides had to represent the supervisor because he seldom, if ever, ventured into his district to meet with constitu­ents.

And Bill was good at his job. His meeting with constituents all those eight years made him extremely popular for when he ran in 1970, and was elected, county supervi­sor in his own right. Cozens had resigned on December 30, 1969, to accept an appointment as director of the state Department of Motor Vehicles. When Republican As­semblyman John Stull moved up to the state Senate in 1972, Bill ran for the vacant Assembly seat and was elected, taking office in 1973. Stull retired in 1978, leaving the Senate’s 38th District seat vacant. Bill was the obvious choice to suc­ceed; he ran for the office, was elected and served for the afore­mentioned 20 years.

When Rep. Clair Burgener re­tired from his 43rd District con­gressional seat in 1983, many of us assumed that state Sen. Bill Craven would seek to succeed Burgener in Congress. Craven was practically a lead-pipe cinch to win. He had ev­erything going for him: a war vet­eran, experienced legislator, per­sonable, articulate, an extremely popular Republican running in a rock-solid Republican district. But he decided not to run for the higher political seat (one not subject to term limits) and chose to stay in the California Senate!

Why? Why did Bill Craven choose not to run for Congress; for a seat he most surely would have won? He never explained. The ru­mor was – and I believed it – that his wife, Mimi, did not want to move to Washington.

Bill’s legacy is California State University, San Marcos. It was his bill and tenacity to push for legis­lative support that resulted in cre­ation of the university that has been flourishing and evolving since its opening in 1989 as the 20th Cal State University campus. A student classroom building on campus bears his name – Craven Hall.

Have you ever noticed those telephone call-boxes on our state’s highways, or maybe had the need to use one for emergency assistance? Partial appreciation goes to Bill Craven. Bill was co-sponsor of the Senate legislation that resulted in that call-box system going into ef­fect on January 1, 1986. A box was installed every half-mile along the freeways throughout the state and spaced every mile along the state highways. The system, which cost an estimated $1 million a month to operate statewide, was funded by a $1 increase in the annual fee on ve­hicle registrations. With the advent of cell phones, fewer and fewer motorists are using the call-boxes. As a result, some counties are be­ginning to phase out the boxes be­cause of the maintenance expense.

Bill Craven became a career pol­itician, but he was the right man for the right job at the right time.

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Another contemporary died the other day. Doug Best was my friend. I had lost contact with Doug during the last few years. We had not seen or talked for some time. Perhaps it was due to our advanc­ing ages.

Several years after I had left the employ of the old Daily Times- Advocate, I worked on the last of Doug’s re-election campaign com­mittees. I remember that Doug once told me that he wanted to be Escondido’s “elected” mayor. He never achieved that goal, although he did serve a term as mayor (1978- 1980) when he was a member of the Escondido City Council (from 1976 to 1988) during the days when council members elected one of themselves each year to serve as mayor – the chairman of the board, if you will.

Doug relished his years on the City Council, being a part of the establishment.

* * *

Ron Kenney was a reporter and edi­tor for the former Daily Times-Advo­cate from 1952 to 1979 and was a copy editor on the pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.

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