Term limit: 2006
Source: California Target Book
John Garamendi biography:
Two years into his second term as Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi has become one of the most aggressive protectors of consumers in the nation, and he is well on his way to fulfilling his promise to make the California Department of Insurance the best consumer protection agency in America.
Garamendi, a lifelong rancher, dedicated family man and longtime public servant, has forged a reputation as a fierce defender of consumers and a visionary, effective leader. He possesses the unique wealth of knowledge and experience necessary to tackle the complex challenges of today’s insurance marketplace.
Elected to the California State Assembly in 1974 and the State Senate in 1976, Garamendi took on leadership roles as Chair of the Health & Welfare Committee, Revenue & Taxation Committee, the Joint Science & Technology Committee, and served as the Senate Majority Leader. He wrote significant pieces of legislation to protect California’s natural resources and consumers. His laws reformed health care delivery, established a work-oriented welfare program, protected Lake Tahoe and Mono Lakes, revised the State’s tax code, and developed an overall State agenda for economic competitiveness and scientific advancement. His ballot proposition also provided $18 billion for mass transportation and highways.
In 1991, Garamendi was elected as California’s Insurance Commissioner. He successfully accomplished the monumental task of implementing Proposition 103, which put into place a major reform of the auto and homeowner insurance industry in California. He subsequently delivered nearly $1 billion in rebates to insurance consumers.
During this term he also lowered homeowner and auto insurance rates, and created a very successful anti-fraud program within the Department of Insurance. Under his leadership, the Department protected homeowners devastated after the Oakland Hills, Laguna, and Malibu fires, as well as those impacted by the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes. As a direct result of his guidance and vision, the Department earned the reputation among consumer organizations as the best consumer protection agency in the nation.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Garamendi to the number two position in the U.S. Department of the Interior, Deputy Secretary, where his efforts led to significant environmental improvements for the nation and California. Garamendi spearheaded efforts that brought about the resolution of water disputes in California. He negotiated the purchase of the Headwaters Forest, coordinated research on global warming, established habitat conservation plans in California, and improved the diversity of the work forces at the National Parks Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
At the time, U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt remarked, "I’m very grateful to John for his outstanding service to this Department and the country. John is a good man with extraordinary skills. I can’t think of anyone who cares more about the critical issues facing the West or who is willing to put in as much time and work to address them."
In 1998 Garamendi took a brief hiatus from public service, leaving the Clinton Administration to become a partner in the Yucaipa Companies, a Los Angeles based private investment firm.
Beginning his second term as Insurance Commissioner in 2003, one of Garamendi’s priorities was to reform California’s worker’s compensation system, working collaboratively with business, labor and the Legislature to accomplish this goal. Commissioner Garamendi’s "The Garamendi Plan for Workers’ Compensation Reform" was the blueprint for the 2003 and 2004 reforms that will lower costs in the system by 23%.
John Garamendi is now developing and implementing aggressive programs to inform and protect seniors from insurance scams, and has redirected his investigative units to focus on fraud, including workers’ compensation fraud. He is also launching his Emerging Communities Initiative, designed to help underserved communities through innovative efforts, such as the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program. He continues his fight to relieve homeowners of expensive and onerous insurance company practices with his "Homeowners’ Bill of Rights," a comprehensive package of legislation and regulatory actions. The Commissioner has launched major lawsuits, investigations, and instituted new regulations attacking corrupt sales practices in the insurance industry. Most recently he has subpoenaed executives of major title insurance firms as part of a far-reaching investigation into harmful, illegal kickback schemes that are plaguing that industry.
Born in 1945, Garamendi was raised on his family’s cattle ranch in Mokelumne Hill, California. Garamendi graduated with a Bachelors Degree in business from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was an outstanding scholar-athlete, was second-team All-American offensive guard in football, a two-time member of the All-Pacific Coast Conference team, and the 1964 West Coast heavyweight wrestling champion. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Prior to receiving his MBA, Garamendi and his wife, Patti, were Peace Corps volunteers in Ethiopia. Patti is now the Assistant Manager at the California Exposition and State Fair, and was previously the Deputy Secretary of California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. She also served for eight years in the Clinton Administration as Assistant Director of the U.S. Peace Corps. Garamendi and his wife make their home in Walnut Grove and have six children and nine grandchildren.
One of Garamendi’s passions is a commitment to international service. He led a group of returned Peace Corps volunteers on a peace mission during the Ethiopian Eritrea war in 1998-2000. His five member team met with Ambassadors, Foreign Ministers, and the Heads of State of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Many of their proposals formed the basis for the eventual peace treaty. They also met with President Clinton and top U.S. officials. Garamendi is presently the leader of a similar team conducting peace negotiations in the Congo Civil War.
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