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A Model Public Servant

Career government employees are accustomed to hearing disparaging cracks like this: “Good enough for government work.” Political candidates often attack the bureaucracy, making Civil Service sound like a vulgarity. But for each bad apple that the public hears about there are many like Bob Williams who toil faithfully and competently year after year, in good times and in bad, with little recognition, for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Williams, 60, is retiring this month as deputy legislative secretary in the governor’s office after 36 years of service to the state of California. His job since 1963 has been to analyze measures that have been passed by the Legislature, summarize them for the governor and from time to time offer opinions on whether the bills should be signed into law or vetoed. Without exaggeration, this tall man with laconic good humor has often been responsible for saving four governors from acute embarrassment and tax payers from millions of dollars of unnecessary spending. Williams’ desk has been the last place to catch unwanted loopholes, duplication of laws, or any number of unanticipated legal foul-ups.

Like many in Sacramento, Williams put himself through law school at night while working days for the state. The Sacramento native was a hospital corpsman in the Navy during 1952-54. He worked for the state Personnel Board and the state Department of Transportation before being assigned full time to the governor’s office.

During the Jerry Brown Administration a Sacramento judicial seat was saved for Williams--a plum seldom offered a civil servant. But when then-Chief of Staff B. T. Collins told Williamsthat the governor wanted to appoint him a judge, Williams replied firmly: “I’m flattered, but that is not what I am here for.”

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Californians should be grateful that, for Bob Williams and for thousands of state employees like him, the title civil servant , and the satisfaction of a job well done, is honor enough.


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