Britton "Jerry" McFetridge, a former Capitol staff member who helped state lawmakers pass major labor-related legislation, died Feb. 4 at his Clarksburg home, his family said. He was 72.
A fit, active man who enjoyed mountain hiking and whitewater rafting, Mr. McFetridge died unexpectedly in his sleep, said his son Duncan.
The news stunned and saddened many at the state Capitol, where Mr. McFetridge mentored a number of colleagues during more than 25 years of public service. He worked for the Assembly Office of Research and was a consultant to several committees, including the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee.
"We referred to Jerry as the dean of the legislative staff," former Capitol colleague Bob Giroux said. "He'd been there so long and had so much experience. He was very knowledgeable and well respected."
Mr. McFetridge was credited with shepherding major bills through the legislative process, including the California Occupational Safety and Health Act and laws requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages on state construction jobs. He also worked on legislation establishing workplace safety standards and rules governing wages, hours, sick leave and other job matters.
He left the Capitol twice to work as a lobbyist, including several years as legislative and political director for the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California.
"He believed in working people, and in making sure that they had a strong voice both when he was inside the building and outside the building," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said. "He was a good man."
Britton Edward McFetridge II was born in 1939 in San Diego. He graduated from high school in Ojai, served in the Army and earned a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno.
He first went to work at the Capitol in 1967.
He was married and divorced twice, and he had five children.
Mr. McFetridge was remembered by friends as a hardworking, loyal and fun-loving man who enjoyed outdoor adventures. He paddled Western river rapids, backpacked along the Pacific Crest Trail and hiked the Annapurna mountains in Nepal.
He traveled to Italy and Mexico, and he recently was preparing for a bike trip across Vietnam.
He settled in Clarksburg after retiring from the Capitol in 2004 and built a home on stilts above the floodplain with a modern interior style that included artwork from his travels. He started a vineyard from scratch on 22 acres and grew chardonnay and petite sirah grapes.
Mr. McFetridge was active in efforts to preserve the World War I Victory Trees, a row of elms planted along Freeport Boulevard between Sacramento and Freeport to honor Sacramento County soldiers who died in the war. He was interviewed for a Bee story last month that reported a developer has agreed to donate $10,000 to the city of Sacramento to replace trees that have been cut down.
"What we ought to do is get off our duffs," he said, "take the $10,000 and replace the trees ourselves."