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August 19, 2013
Freshman Facts: Ken Cooley, Capitol tour guide


He may be new to the Assembly, but Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, knows the state Capitol better than some incumbents. Not just the contours of power but the building itself: For years he has given guided tours, a legacy of his time working for then-Assemblyman Lou Papan.

The 1971 San Fernando valley earthquake led to heightened scrutiny of the state Capitol building, which was found to be less structurally sound than was ideal. Papan oversaw some restoration in his capacity as Rules Committee chair, and the cost of the project became an issue in his 1978 re-election campaign.

"From that moment on I was in the tour business," Cooley said, recounting how he would keep hardhats in his office and give tours to visiting VIPs.

In addition to learning about the building, Cooley has spent years working in it as chief of staff to Papan, chief counsel to the Assembly banking and insurance committee from 1988 to 1991, and state counsel for State Farm Insurance Co. from 1991 to 2008. He calls himself "a freshman, not a rookie," and said one of his priorities will be developing young staffers.

"In my Capitol and my district office I've hired my staff not so much for what they'll do for me but what they'll do over their careers," Cooley said.

And yes, that could include preparing future generations of tour guides.

The 2013-2014 Legislature features the largest freshman class in decades. In this recurring series, Insider Edition helps get you acquainted with the influx of newcomers.

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