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For week ended January 02, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Local LDS Politician Named 'Newsmaker of the Decade'
Los Angeles Times (Daily Pilot) 30Dec99 D2
By Tony Dodero

ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA -- The Orange County, California Daily Pilot, owned by the Los Angeles Times, chose LDS church member and long-time Orange County politician Marian Bergeson as "Newsmaker of the Decade." Bergeson, who is currently a member of California's state Board of Education, served as State Senator, County Supervisor and as Secretary of Child Development and Education under Governor Pete Wilson during the past decade.

Among her republican colleagues, Bergeson is highly regarded. Former Newport Beach Mayor Evelyn Hart says she owes her political career to Bergeson, "I cut my political teeth with Marian Bergeson. There are a few women in politics and none of them are role models like Marian Bergeson. She's very quotable, very down to earth and a very loyal friend over the years."

Orange County Republican Chairman Tom Fuentes agrees, "It has to be said that Marian is very first, a beautiful Mormon woman. As a devoted Christian, she has carried her values into her service in public office from school board right up through the top. As a woman, that was very courageous. She never caved on core values, which is significant in the political debate."

Bergeson moved to Newport Beach's Baycrest community in 1958 with her husband Garth. A school teacher, Bergeson was elected to the local school board in 1964, serving there for more than 10 years before gaining a seat in the California State Assembly as a republican. In the 1980s, she moved up to the State Senate, still representing her Orange County home district.

In the 1990s, Bergeson became much more visible and prominent in California politics, but only through a number of seeming setbacks. In 1990 she was nominated for California's Lieutenant Governor, but lost in the general election. Returning to the Senate, she then faced a steep recession that left California with $15 billion to cut from its budget. Then in 1992, Governor Pete Wilson nominated her to be the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction, but her nomination was squelched by the Democratic State Assembly Speaker, Willie Brown.

So Bergeson returned to local politics, running unopposed for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 1994. But a month before she took office, Orange County declared bankruptcy, in what is still called the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. The resulting financial difficulties hampered Bergeson and her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors,

After struggling out of the difficulties of bankruptcy, Governor Pete Wilson again drew Bergeson back into state-wide service, nominating her for his cabinet as Secretary of Child Development and Education. In that position, Bergeson pushed for and attained reductions in class sizes statewide and improved teacher training and curriculum standards.

Through all her difficulties, Bergeson has managed to keep a great deal of optimism about her circumstances. "You don't really have disappointments, you have experiences," she says. And she expects to keep that outlook for the rest of her life. "Luckily I have good health and great expectations for involvement. I've never had to worry about opportunities coming forward. And when I can't (be involved anymore) I will just continue to walk my dog around the block and enjoy my grand kids."


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