William Hauck, a prominent figure at the state Capitol for decades and a longtime California State University trustee, died Friday after an eight-month battle with brain cancer, friend Rick Brandsma said. He was 73.
Mr. Hauck was influential in California politics, business and higher education for almost half a century as a dedicated public policy expert who worked across party lines to improve government. He arrived in Sacramento in the mid-1960s and joined a nonpartisan legislative staff group created by Democratic Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh to give lawmakers straightforward information about issues independently from lobbyists and the executive branch.
He went on to serve in leadership posts for Democratic Assembly Speakers Robert Moretti and Willie Brown and Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition, Wilson and Schwarzenegger appointed him to separate blue-ribbon commissions on revising the California Constitution and restructuring state government.
“Bill was that amazing bridge in this city,” Republican political consultant Rob Stutzman said. “To have the intellect, the integrity and the passion to want to see powerful men and women from each party be able to work together toward solutions – that’s why governors and legislators from each party trusted him and relied upon him so heavily.”
The ability to find common ground among diverse viewpoints served Mr. Hauck as president of the California Business Roundtable, a leading advocacy group for big corporations in the state, from 1996 to 2011. He later joined Goddard Claussen/West, a political consulting firm now known as Redwood Pacific, as a senior adviser.
“Bill’s leadership of this organization was a visionary one,” roundtable president Rob Lapsley said. “He focused on how to create a positive business climate, but at the same time he understood businesses’ commitment to a strong California of the future.”
Mr. Hauck championed the role of higher education in shaping the state’s future as a member of the CSU Board of Trustees since 1993. After two years as vice chairman, he served as chairman from 1998 to 2000 and was head of the finance committee at the time of his death.
Besides serving on committees responsible for improving student academic achievement, he led searches for presidents of campuses in Sacramento, San Jose and San Diego. In 2012, he chaired the committee that appointed CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White.
He was a frequent visitor to CSU campuses and met regularly with members of the California State Student Association. He endowed the William Hauck Scholarship for students at San Jose State, where he had earned a social science degree in 1963.
“Bill will be remembered as a bold leader, a proud and accomplished alumnus and tireless champion for the CSU and our students,” White said in a written statement.
Born Aug. 20, 1940, in Topeka, Kan., Robert William Hauck moved with his family to New Jersey and Utah before settling in California. He graduated from Burlingame High School and attended College of San Mateo before transferring to San Jose State College, where he took an interest in politics and was elected student president.
He received a fellowship at the Coro Foundation, a program that places college graduates in internships in government, politics and education. The experience gave him connections and an interest in melding the interests of government and business, he told The Bee in 1997.
“Business guys had stereotypes about government people and vice versa,” he said. “A role that people needed to play in our society is a bridge between these various groups. That appealed to me.”
Mr. Hauck served as a chief aide to Moretti before leaving the Assembly in the 1970s to join business partners in starting Information for Public Affairs, an early online computer service tracking legislation in Washington, D.C., and all 50 states that became State Net and was acquired by Lexis Nexis. The business also owned California Journal magazine.
He returned to the Assembly in 1981 as chief of staff to Brown while maintaining close ties to Republicans. In 1982, he helped Wilson, who was San Diego mayor, prepare for a key debate against Gov. Jerry Brown in the U.S. Senate race. He later helped Wilson with the transition to governor, joined his administration as deputy chief of staff and played a critical role as a back channel between Wilson and Brown during a 64-day state budget stalemate in 1992.
Mr. Hauck previously served in the Army Reserve as a public information officer. A former Sacramento resident, he moved to St. Helena about a year ago with his wife, Padget Kaiser.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two children from a previous marriage, a son Adam and daughter Cari; a sister, Betsy; and one grandchild.
A private service is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the William Hauck Scholarship at San Jose State University can be made by visiting www.calstate.edu/givetocsu or by making a check payable to the CSU Foundation, 401 Golden Shore, Sixth Floor, Long Beach, CA 90802.