Now, as supervisor for Orange County’s 3rd District, the LMU and Harvard Business School alumnus looks back to those words as a motivating force in his life.
“She didn’t define where I had to give back — could be as a teacher, a politician, or as a member of the military. She just said I have an obligation to give back,” he recalls.
That seed sparked a political career that saw Campbell serve as a California state assemblyman for six years in eastern Orange County’s 71st District before he took his current position as supervisor in January 2003. Campbell’s district includes Anaheim, Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Villa Park, and Yorba Linda, along with unincorporated areas of Orange County’s.
Being supervisor effectively puts Campbell in charge of municipal services for people living in unincorporated areas of his district as well as social services and health care countywide. He also has a hand in the public safety budgeting. But Campbell started as a businessman, and that’s something that has served him well since he took office.
“I’m a business guy,” Campbell says. With a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an M.B.A., he worked in the aerospace industry until setting out on his own through some Taco Bell franchises and dry cleaning businesses. He added a few Vitamin Shoppes and food distribution companies here and sold a few businesses there — that is, until 1995, when his future state assembly seat became vacant.
“I’d always had an interest in politics, but it was in the form of writing a letter to your congressman or assemblyman or governor,” he says. “I was focused on running my business successfully and raising my family with my wife, Mary.”
But serving as an assembly member and county supervisor hasn’t meant leaving behind his business experience. In fact, Campbell says, being supervisor means carrying a responsibility for a large organization with a budget in the billions of dollars.
“The theoretical business learning at Harvard and the practical business learning in the other businesses I ran are all coming to bear in running a $5-billion enterprise,” he says. “And that makes me excited every day.”