States

Schwarzenegger Picks Riordan For Key Adviser Spot

By Joetta L. Sack — November 12, 2003 2 min read
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Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan will be California’s education secretary, Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger announced last week.

The high-profile appointment officially makes Mr. Riordan, 73, the incoming governor’s top education adviser, a role he has played in recent months as Mr. Schwarzenegger sought the office in the recall election that ousted Gov. Gray Davis. The governor-elect will take office on Nov. 17.

“I am confident that his experience in public service and commitment to reforming our public schools will benefit California,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said in a Nov. 3 statement announcing his choice of Mr. Riordan for the Cabinet post.

Mr. Riordan—who, like Mr. Schwarzenegger, is a Republican—took an active interest in education issues during his tenure as mayor from 1993 to 2001. He promoted reading and after-school programs, for example. In 1999, he also helped finance new candidates for the Los Angeles school board, which he viewed as dysfunctional.

Many political observers in the state were not surprised at the appointment, as Mr. Riordan had been viewed as the top contender for the job in recent weeks.

Kevin Gordon, the executive director of the California Association of School Business Officials, said that Mr. Riordan’s appointment would bring a higher profile to the office, possibly at the expense of state’s elected superintendent of public instruction, former Democratic state lawmaker Jack O’Connell.

Mr. Gordon said Mr. Riordan, who was already a prominent Los Angeles attorney before being elected mayor, had focused much of his political career on education issues.

‘He’s Not an Educator’

“Dick Riordan is a moderate,” Mr. Gordon said. “I think folks in the education community on both ends of the political spectrum ought to be happy.”

The California Teachers’ Association, however, was not happy.

It would like the governor to abolish the job of education secretary, which some educators believe is redundant and unnecessary. To make their case, CTA officials point to the independent state superintendent, who oversees the education department, and an 11-member state board of education—appointed by the governor—that sets policy.

The education secretary has a staff of about 20 people who work on policy recommendations and education projects for the governor. Mr. Riordan, whose new job does not require Senate confirmation, will succeed Kerry Mazzoni, who has held the job under Gov. Davis.

Last week, CTA Associate Executive Director John Hein resigned his position as an education adviser on the Schwarzenegger transition team because the CTA was not consulted on Mr. Riordan’s appointment.

David A. Sanchez, vice president of the CTA, denied that there was any animosity toward Mr. Riordan personally.

“He’s not an educator; he’s never been in the classroom,” Mr. Sanchez said. “He may be somewhat familiar with what’s happened in schools, but that department [the secretary’s office] is wasted bureaucracy.”

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