Bob White’s clients at California Strategies benefit from his first-hand, hands-on experience at the local, state and federal levels of government, his abilities as one of the most talented political strategists in the state, and the long list of friends and colleagues he has nurtured over those many years.
In 1997, after a 32-year career at the center of California politics and public service, Bob White became the founding partner of California Strategies. Known and respected on both sides of the aisle, White’s distinguished career in public service is characterized by hard work, persistence and success.
White’s unique combination of skills as an unparalleled talent scout, a consummate strategist, and a skilled manager are now available to clients of California Strategies, which state historian Kevin Starr called “the leading planning and political advocacy partnership in the state.”
Pete Wilson, for whom White served as Chief of Staff in the State Assembly, in the San Diego Mayor’s office, in the United States Senate in Washington D.C., and in the Governor’s Office in Sacramento, describes White as “someone who combines extraordinary political instincts with a genuine desire for good public policy.” For more than three decades, the successful Wilson-White team made major contributions to the quality of life in California and the nation, including, perhaps most significantly, the recruitment of many talented men and women into politics and public service.
California Journal described White as “the man who ran [Pete Wilson’s] office, recruited his staff and advised him on everything from his luncheon speeches to his vision for a state of 32 million people.” The Journal also noted that, in Sacramento, “Arguably, Bob White for six years has been the most powerful, unelected figure in California government.”
As 360 Magazine noted, White’s “solid reputation as both a consummate manager and purposeful visionary enabled him to assemble some remarkable teams of leaders in California’s state government. He has frequently been described by colleagues as energetic and charismatic, with a shrewd ability to judge policy and people. He continues to be a confidant and mentor to elected officials at all levels of government.”
For clients of California Strategies, White provides an invaluable, seasoned perspective that helps in the creation of successful strategies at the local, state and federal level, inside government and in the private sector. He also has the ability to draw on the vast network of friends, colleagues and contacts he has built over his career.
In 1968, following service in the US Coast Guard, White joined then-Assemblyman Pete Wilson in Sacramento. Three years later he moved to San Diego when Wilson was elected Mayor. The Wilson years were one of the most significant periods in San Diego’s history. The Wilson-White team pioneered the concepts of community policing and growth management, leading to a national reputation for San Diego as a safe city and the leader in the effort to control urban sprawl. Commenting on White’s effectiveness, San Diego Magazine stated, “White became one of the most politically influential men ever in San Diego and California government… He was the man who saw to it that Wilson’s agenda and vision were translated into action.”
In 1982 White moved east to serve as Senator Wilson’s Chief of Staff. In this capacity he recruited, assembled and directed a large staff of policy professionals who dealt with the wide array of issues affecting the Golden State. Working with state and local governments and leaders of both parties, he helped to ensure California taxpayers got their fair share of federal education, transportation and healthcare dollars. In addition to staffing and running the Senator’s Washington and California offices, White also oversaw the state’s important and successful international trade offices.
Governor Wilson’s first decision after being elected governor in 1990 was to appoint White Director of the Transition and Inauguration Team. In this capacity, he coordinated the hiring of more than 300 senior state administrators and had the new administration up and running in less than three months, in time for the inauguration.
As Chief of Staff to Governor Wilson, White effectively served as California’s chief operating officer. He formulated, negotiated and executed an annual budget exceeding $56 billion (a budget that qualified California as the seventh largest economy in the world at that time). In Sacramento, White was responsible for the creation and implementation of economic and strategic policy for the state and held ultimate managerial authority and responsibility for more than 60 agencies and departments that included more than 200,000 employees and 220,000 government appointments.
He was a key negotiator with the legislature on many crucial issues and legislative packages, leading The Los Angeles Times to describe him as “a hard-nosed administrator…the man Wilson relies on to make things work.”
White was one of the first people to work with Arnold Schwarzenegger in politics. In 2002, he was one of the key strategists for Schwarzenegger’s after-school initiative (Prop. 49), and in 2003, he served as Campaign Manager for the Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor campaign during the historic recall of then-Governor Gray Davis. A few days after the election, Governor-elect Schwarzenegger wrote to his friend and advisor:
You are the master of running this successful campaign and you are definitely the genius behind the scenes of the Prop. 49 victory. I learned a great deal and was thrilled to have you steering our ship.
From the beginning you have spearheaded this effort. Your expertise in putting together a tremendously dedicated, tireless and brilliant team is astonishing.
Your team always had all the bases covered, from focus groups, assembling a powerful coalition reaching out to our important allies, producing great commercials, overseeing the big-picture strategy, and leading us to a triumphant success.
Throughout his career in the public and private sectors, White has won widespread respect for his bipartisan approach to coalition building. As former California Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown put it, “Bob White is one of the most talented political strategists in the state. He has more relationships, more contacts, more wisdom than anyone on the Republican side of the aisle.”
In 2006 Bob was awarded the Spirit of San Diego Award. This award “honors an individual who has played a vital role in shaping our region. Cherished figures in our community, these individuals have made a tremendous and lasting impact on our city and region.”
In 2017, Bob was recognized for his lifelong commitment to Downtown San Diego with the prestigious Founders Award presented at the 2017 Alonzo Awards Dinner. The award honors Bob for his work with then Mayor Pete Wilson to “transform Downtown into the vibrant economic epicenter of San Diego”.
Described by The Los Angeles Times as a “well-liked sage” who operates across political lines, and by the San Jose Mercury News as “a widely respected and well-liked capitol figure,” White’s clients at California Strategies benefit from his unique blend of first-hand, hands-on experience at all levels of government.
A native San Diegan, White attended San Diego State University and graduated with a degree in political science and journalism. His alma mater has twice named him Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. He was, and is, an active member of Sigma Chi fraternity. In 2017, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary Sigma Chi Fraternity Bob was selected as one 150 living members for induction in Hall of Fame. He lives in Sacramento and San Diego.