Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Tribute To Steve Thompson

Rep. Robert T. Matsui

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in tribute to a man with a distinguished career in public service. Throughout the course of his illustrious career, my great friend, Steve Thompson, served his beloved people of California with great passion, integrity, and distinction. On August 17th, California lost its most influential advocate for healthcare policy when Steve passed away after a brief and courageous battle against cancer. As his family and friends gather to pay tribute and remember Steve's countless achievements and contributions to the people of California, I ask all my colleagues to join me in saluting one of the Capitol's most well-respected figures, and my dear friend, Steve Thompson.

Steve started his forty-year Capitol career in 1964 as an Assistant Economist for the Department of Water Resources. In 1966, Steve moved to the Legislative Analyst's Office and, a year later, to the Assembly Health Committee. In 1971, Steve took a job as Principal Consultant to then Assemblyman Willie Brown's Ways and Means Committee. At Ways and Means, Thompson was part of what is now considered an all-star team of staffers that included John Mockler, now a leader on education, Phil Isenberg, who eventually became the Mayor of Sacramento and served in the Legislature for fourteen years, Ray Sullivan, who became a fiscal policy leader, and Bob Connelly, who became the Assembly's Chief Administrative Officer. Steve's numerous gifts were apparent to his cohorts from early on in his career. ``In politics, you have to have passion, knowledge and perspective to succeed and Steve had all three,'' said John Mockler, a friend since 1965.

During this early part of his legislative career, Steve drafted California's first bill on autism and helped create the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, California's landmark reform on mental health services. Steve also played a big role in shaping legislation in the 1960s that created the system for caring for severely developmentally disabled people in smaller regional centers rather than in large state hospitals. Steve left the Legislature in 1974 and founded a public policy research firm. Seven years later, Steve returned to the Capitol as the Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the Assembly, Willie Brown. Willie Brown often referred to Steve as being ``central'' to his operation. In 1986, Steve took over as director of the Assembly Office of Research.

Throughout the Capitol, Steve was affectionately known as ``the Health SMIC,'' short for ``smartest man in California'' on health care related issues. In 1992, Steve's mastery of health care related issues landed him the post of government affairs director and chief lobbyist for the California Medical Association. Steve used his influence to fight for the issue that he cared about the most: improving healthcare coverage for the medically uninsured. Just last year, Steve was the driving force behind legislation that requires employers to provide health care benefits to workers. Steve's passion to improve health care was so great that he was still testifying before legislative committees a week before his death. While the loss of Steve Thompson to the state of California and the health care community is great, it is also of great personal loss to me. Steve and I attended grammar school together and were life long friends. I will always cherish my memories of Steve, he was a ``good troublemaker'' as one of our friends put it. Doris and I will dearly miss his friendship.

Steve is survived by his wife, Nancy; his sister, Dagmar, and his four children, Peter, Schuyler, Hallie, and Scott.

Mr. Speaker, as Steve Thompson's family members and friends gather to honor his legacy and many contributions, I am honored to pay tribute to one of my closest friends. His successes are unparalleled. I ask all my colleagues to join with me in paying my respect and acknowledging the deeds and life of an extraordinary man.