Background Shared in City Politics : Beam Sees Supervisor’s Seat As Move to ‘Major Leagues’

Times Staff Writer

James H. Beam says he got his start in politics at a shoeshine stand.

“I was a young banker at the time, probably about 21 years of age,” Beam said, when Paul Mitchell, an aide to Rep. James B. Utt (R-Santa Ana), and Beam wound up at the same shoeshine stand in Orange.

Mitchell “said he needed an alternate to himself to the (county) Republican Central Committee, and could he appoint me,” Beam said. “I said I’d be delighted.”

At committee meetings, “On one side would be Walter Knott and on the other side would be Cy Fluor,” Beam recalled, plus “any number of people I respected immensely. So it was quite a thrill for me to get involved in politics that way.”


Beam’s grandparents emigrated from Germany and settled in Orange in 1888. The son of a barber, Beam was born in 1934 and attended Cal State Fullerton and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., though he did not receive a degree.

After working as a banker and real estate broker, Beam ran for the state Assembly in 1974, losing the primary to Bruce Nestande, who went on to win the election. Nestande later left Sacramento to become an Orange County supervisor.

In 1976, Beam won election to the Orange City Council. From 1976 to 1978, he also was executive director of the Orange County chapter of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.

While remaining on the council and serving as mayor, Beam switched jobs and became a real estate investor, a business he says consists in large part of buying failed condominium complexes and converting them to rental units.


Beam said he decided to run for the 4th District seat on the Board of Supervisors because “after 10 years on the City Council, six as mayor, it was time to move on.”

“My wife and I don’t want to move out of Orange County or the City of Orange. So that pretty much dictates if you want to move up it would be to the board. The council is kind of the minor leagues and the Board of Supervisors is the major leagues.”