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Orange County Register (California)

Clarey worked for Gov. Wilson;


Schwarzenegger selection as chief of staff is considered a straight shooter by some, but consumer advocates object.

by JOHN GITTELSOHN , The Orange County Register
October 23, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for governor as an outsider, but the woman he named as chief of staff Wednesday is a veteran of two Republican presidencies and the administration of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

Patricia Clarey, 50, brings the experience observers say Schwarzenegger needs to navigate Sacramento.

''He's got to hit the ground running, and she knows how the place runs,'' Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle said.

The chief of staff is seen as the governor's alter ego and closest confidante, a person who knows what the governor thinks and watches his back. The job pays $131,400 a year.

Clarey's priorities will be helping Schwarzenegger decide on staffing, Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said. Schwarzenegger is expected to name other key aides, such as finance director, in the next few days.

Pringle, the Republican Assembly leader while Clarey was deputy chief of staff to Wilson, described her as a steady, reliable force.

''She dealt with a lot of volatile personalities,'' he said. ''Regardless of the ups and downs, regardless of the challenges, Pat was a rock.''

In a statement, the governor-elect said: ''I have a great deal of confidence in her leadership ability as she works to create a bipartisan relationship between my new administration and members of the state Legislature.''

Clarey worked as Schwarzenegger's deputy campaign manager while on leave from a job as a government relations executive for Health Net, a Woodland Hills-based HMO.

As Wilson's deputy chief of staff, Clarey decorated her office with giant photos of Wilson at an earthquake, a bill signing and other historic events -- a style copied by the rest of the capitol, said Kevin Sloat, a fellow deputy under Wilson. Sloat said Clarey worked 14- to 15-hour days -- among the most on the staff.

''It was a very rare night when I left and Pat Clarey wasn't still at her desk.''

Democrats who have worked with her call her a straight shooter. Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, said she is not afraid to speak her mind ''even about Republicans she didn't like.''

Some consumer advocates are worried. Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said: ''An HMO lobbyist does not deserve to be a leading part of an administration that has pledged to stand up to special interests.''

Of Clarey's ties to Health Net, Stutzman said: ''There are personal relationships I imagine she wouldn't sever. Whether the chief of staff will be directly lobbied would be a policy that is still yet to be established.''

Clarey worked in the National Park Service for President George H.W. Bush and in the Interior department for President Reagan. She is single and has no children.

Register staff writers Kimberly Kindy and Martin Wisckol and the San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.
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Contact the author at: (714) 796-7969 or jgittels@ocregister.com