Friday, December 3, 2010

Farewell, Joe Cerrell...

Joseph R. Cerrell, 1935-2010

The sun shines a little less bright on the American political landscape right now, especially in Los Angeles. Public policy, publicity, politics and punditry lost a pioneer and a real pro on Friday.

Joseph R. Cerrell, "a legendary political consultant and consummate schmoozer whose unrelenting but principled style won respect from allies and opponents, died of complications related to pneumonia at St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo, Calif. He was 75."

Cerrell’s roster of clients and friends read like an almanac of U.S., California and Los Angeles politics: "from the 1950s forward — [including] John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore, Dianne Feinstein, Willie Brown, Jesse Unruh and both Pat Brown and his son, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown."

I was fortunate to have interacted a number of occasions with Joe and his colleagues at Cerrell Associates - the vaunted political consulting and public relations firm he founded in 1967. During the times I worked with Cerrell, I was lucky enough to not only hear his stories of great historical/political figures and events, but I also had numerous opportunities to learn from one of the best.

While he was a lifelong Democrat, the man they called "the Dean of LA political consultants," also counted well-known and powerful Republicans among his many friends. He and his firm had a solid reputation for integrity, diligence and smarts. He did politics the way it should be done.

In a LA Daily News obituary for Cerrell, remarks from two prominent California politicians said it all:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, called him a "true California legend. He was the indefatigable wise man of California politics. You could always count on Joe to give it to you straight."
  • County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said Cerrell was "a legend and giant in the world of politics and public affairs...Joe gave politics a good name. He loved the game and we has a master of it."


Cerrell, with his hands on the car's windshield, was a force behind many major politicians' campaigns. Cerrell served as the youngest-ever chairman of the California Democratic Party. That experience caught the eye of John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960, and he became Kennedy’s California campaign manager.

For information regarding the memorial service for Joseph R. Cerrell, go here...

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