Governor Pete Wilson
Pete Wilson was California’s thirty-sixth chief executive, serving as Governor from 1991 to 1999. Wilson previously served eight years as a United States Senator (1983-1991), eleven years as mayor of San Diego (1971-1983), and five years as a California state assemblyman (1967-1971).
Most recently, he was co-chair of the campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Gray Davis as governor of California.
Wilson’s eight years as governor saw California emerge from the depths of recession to a resounding economic recovery. Inheriting the state’s worst economy since the Great Depression, Wilson insisted on strict budget discipline and rehabilitation of the state’s then hostile environment for investment and job creation. Among the many pro-business accomplishments of his administration, he provided for market-based unsubsidized health coverage for employees of small businesses, and obtained anti-fraud measures that drove down workers’ compensation premiums by 40 percent.
Governor Wilson also successfully pushed to enactment sweeping welfare reforms, including time limits and work requirements, and historic education reforms, including rigorous curricular standards, class-size reduction, and the replacement of social promotion with early, effective remedial education. He also began new programs of individualized testing of all students, teacher-competency and training, a longer instructional year, and a return to phonics and early mastery of reading, writing and mathematical skills.
Wilson led efforts to enact tougher crime measures and signed into law “Three Strikes,” (25 years to life for repeat felons) and “ Strike,” (25 years to life upon the first conviction of aggravated rape or child molestation).
He left office with a public approval rating identical to that received by Ronald Reagan at the conclusion of his service as governor.
He is of counsel to Bingham McCutchen LLP and is a principal in Bingham Consulting Group LLC. After leaving office, Wilson spent two years as a managing director of Pacific Capital Group, a merchant bank based in Los Angeles. He serves as a director of The Irvine Company, U.S. Telepacific Communications, Inc., National Information Consortium, Inc. and IDT Entertainment. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of Thomas Weisel Partners, a San Francisco merchant bank.
Wilson is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the Herbert Hoover Institution of Stanford University, concentrating on the reform of primary and secondary education, and national security issues, and the governing boards of the National D-Day Museum, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation, and the Donald Bren Foundation, and as founding director of the California Mentor Foundation.
President George W. Bush appointed Governor Wilson to serve upon the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed him a member of the Secretary’s Defense Policy Board.
Since leaving office, Wilson has received the Woodrow Wilson Institute award for Distinguished Public Service and was awarded the Patriots Award by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
While still in the Senate, Wilson received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Boalt Hall. As Governor, he was the first recipient (1997) of the Bernard E. Witkin Amicus Curiae Award given by the Judicial Council of California in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the enhancement and more effective operation of California’s state court system.
Wilson received a B.A. from Yale University and served three years as a United States Marine Corps infantry officer. Wilson earned his J.D. degree from Boalt Hall at the University of California in Berkeley.