Even before he officially gives up his job next month, Gov. George Deukmejian is packing his bags to return home to his quiet seaside neighborhood in Long Beach.
Once he’s home, Republican Deukmejian will be able to drop by his favorite Belmont Shore barbershop, listen to a Sunday sermon at All Saints Episcopal Church or maybe even savor a sunset without being distracted by the state budget crisis or political tiffs with Democrats.
“I’m looking forward to being able to have a little more privacy, a little more freedom and some new challenges,” Deukmejian said.
Robert Gore, Deukmejian’s press secretary, said the governor is exploring several career options, including joining a law firm or a corporation.
Deukmejian’s friends say the 62-year-old governor may face an immediate adjustment in giving up the trappings of power.
“He’s not going to have people picking him up and driving him to the airport,” said Al Taucher, a Long Beach resident whom Deukmejian appointed to the State Fish and Game Commission. “But I don’t imagine he’ll miss all the controversy.”
Indeed, after eight years as leader of the nation’s most populous state, a smiling Deukmejian chuckled in a recent interview that he expects to slide into private life in Long Beach “very easily, very easily.”
“That’s our home,” he said. “Our family is there and our friends are there.”
His three grown children were raised in Long Beach. Deukmejian said he and his wife, Gloria, are “looking forward” to leading a less public life.
Right now, the Deukmejians are having their Long Beach house painted. They plan to settle in before Christmas.
Deukmejian’s ties to Long Beach are deeply rooted. Deukmejian, who was born in a village on the outskirts of Albany, N.Y., settled in Long Beach in 1958, practicing law and getting involved in community affairs, which served as his springboard to politics. Among other things, Deukmejian was active in the Lions Club, Community Chest and the Boy Scouts. In 1959, he was Long Beach Man of the Year.
The Deukmejians’ homecoming and transition into private life is expected to be far easier--and far less chronicled--than their highly publicized search eight years ago for a place to live in Sacramento.
After his election, Deukmejian sought permission from the Legislature to live in the $1.5-million suburban governor’s mansion, which former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. had refused to use. But the Democratic-controlled Legislature, miffed at the governor for varied reasons, dragged its feet and allowed the mansion to be sold.
While waiting for a decision, Deukmejian initially lived in the downtown Holiday Inn before moving into a high-rise apartment building six blocks from the Capitol. He lived in the apartment for about 17 months, commuting to his Long Beach home on weekends.
Finally, the governor said he would find his own housing. His supporters bought a home for the Deukmejians in the Wilhaggin area, a 15-minute drive from the Capitol, and leased it to the state.
Despite their bumpy landing in Sacramento, Gloria Deukmejian said she has “enjoyed it up here, but I think it’s time to return” to Long Beach.
One state official, who asked not to be identified, said he was surprised that Deukmejian was returning to Long Beach, citing his longtime ties to the capital. Before his 1982 election as governor, Deukmejian served in the Legislature for 16 years and as attorney general for another four.
“Long Beach might be billed as his hometown, but he has more friends in Sacramento,” the source said.
But Deukmejian’s friends in the seaside community embrace the governor as one of their own.
The Rev. William Thompson, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, voiced happiness that the governor is coming back and hopes that he will be as “active in the congregation as he was before he was elected attorney general.”
Thompson, a Deukmejian appointee to the Board of Behavorial Science Examiners, said the governor “has never struck me as the kind of man who will sit back and twiddle his thumbs and do nothing. He’ll be involved in something.”