By Mike Kinney
Robert ‘Bob’ Campbell, a former Richmond councilmember, California assemblymember and business owner known in the community for his sincerity, wry sense of humor and dedication to public service, has died following a battle with cancer. He was 82.
Campbell moved to Richmond with his family as a little boy and would attend Contra Costa College and San Francisco State University. From 1961-1972, he served in the U.S. Army and the California National Guard. He worked as an insurance broker and became the owner of M.A. Hays Insurance Brokers in Richmond in 1979.
In 1975, Campbell, a lifelong Democrat, was elected to the Richmond City Council, where he served until 1980. He was then elected seven straight times to the California State Assembly’s 11th District, serving 16 years from 1980 to 1996. In later years, he was appointed to the California Coastal Commission by Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante.
Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia remembers Campbell as a “great voice” for West County on the state level for decades.
“Bob always sincerely listened to people and translated their concerns into policies which protected those who are most vulnerable in our community,” Gioia said.
Richmond Councilmember Nat Bates, the eight-term city councilmember first elected in 1967, called Campbell a friend as well as a colleague. Bates said he helped Campbell get elected to the city council.
“Bob was a conscientious and dedicated public servant,” Bates said. “He had a remarkable gift with his ability to get things done straight across the board.”
Don Gosney, a local journalist and retired president of Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union 342, described Campbell as “accessible to everyone—he was a man that never forgot his roots.”
“Long after his political career was over and he was a lobbyist/consultant in Sacramento, he would routinely call his friends in labor to make sure that our needs were being addressed,” Gosney said. “Even when Bob was a state legislator, he could sit down with regular people and talk with them and make them feel like they were the center of the universe. People saw Bob as their friend—because that’s exactly what he was.”
John Ziesenhenne, current owner of MA Hayes, said the community will never forget Campbell’s support and help of the less fortunate and for helping improve his community.
“His laugh, his storytelling and his great smile will be missed within the insurance office of M.A. Hays Co.,” Ziesenhenne said.
Campbell was also remembered as a great neighbor. Lesa McIntosh, board member for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, said Campbell was her friend and neighbor for nearly 30 years and described him as one of her “favorite people in the world.”
“His family became like my family,” McIntosh said. “He was generous with his caring support, with his time and with his wry sense of humor. He made me think and laugh in just one sentence. We have lost a true gentleman and spirit. To say he will be missed is an understatement.”
Campbell lived in Marina Bay with his surviving wife, former Richmond City Councilmember Maria Viramontes.