Staff Director, Senate Committee on Local Government

In the theater of politics, Peter Detwiler ’71 is a behind-the-scenes stage manager. Effectively administering the daily operations of a Senate policy committee requires an open mind, intellectual curiosity, deft timing, and a balanced perspective. He credits Saint Mary’s with equipping him with all four.

“I came to Saint Mary’s wanting to be a lawyer,” he said. “I got interested in Latin American studies, then state and local government. The Government department supported all those interests. Professor Hal Winkler arranged an internship with the Assembly local government committee in spring 1971. That exposure to the legislative process led me to my career. Dr. Winkler figuratively opened the door and encouraged me to walk in.”

Two Jan Term courses especially influenced Detwiler. “My junior year was the first for the “4-1-4” curriculum. I produced a photo portfolio of land use around the Bay Area. A year later, I interned for a citizen group wanting to consolidate regional government. I now work on these issues for the Senate local government committee, and both relate directly to my Jan Term experience.”

Saint Mary’s left a personal impact on Detwiler. Asked to relate his most memorable moment, he declines—“it’s so embarrassing that I won’t tell you”—but does recall his first impressions.

“I went to a public high school in Southern California, but wanted to attend a Catholic college in the Bay Area. Neither USF nor Santa Clara showed any personal interest. Someone from Saint Mary’s admissions visited my home and we sat around talking about college. He also arranged for us to take a tour over the Christmas break. Forty years later, my dad still talks about the good Navy bean soup he ate in Dryden Hall during that visit.”

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