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California State University, Long Beach
Alumni Association

James Hankla, '61 B.A. Political Science

James Hankla's Portrait

Describe your college experience.

I was a commuter kid from Wilmington, California. First in my family to attend college much less graduate. My father was a career soldier and my mother a career nurse for the County of LA. I was born in Louisville, KY. I had Polio at age five but recovered enough to be on the first LBSU wrestling team coached by Barney Boring. I was never very good but enjoyed the experience and the body building which helped secure my first public sector job working for the County of Los Angeles at Carmelitos Housing project as a Recreation leader.

What activities / organizations were you involved in while attending LBSC?

I only wrestled one season as I contracted a fungus infection from the mats and it took awhile to cure it. While at LBSU I was in Circle K and continued to be active in Scouting and was an adult leader on the Sea Scout Ship (Dragnet - San Pedro) sponsored by the LAPD. I met my wife of 51 years , Jorene on a scouting trip to Catalina Island. I made a number of friends while at LBSU and many came along from Banning High in Wilmington. I was the only one from Banning in my class that graduated.

Which professor(s) or staff made an impact on your academic or professional career and why?

My professors Dr James Lien and Ken Millsap made a tremendously positive impact on my life and I credit them with my career choice in public service. My best friend at LBSU became Ted Millard, then a pre-law student who went on to become a presiding judge of Orange County Superior Court.

What did you do after graduating?

I began my career of public service in 1957 with the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, while attending California State University, Long Beach.  After graduating in 1960, I began working with the City of Long Beach as a Budget Analyst and later a Legislative Analyst.  In 1974, I was named Executive Assistant to the City Manager, and in 1976 I became Director of Community Development and Executive Director of the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency.  My work restructuring the City’s financing program for downtown redevelopment in the wake of California’s Proposition 13 earned the City the prestigious Winston Crouch Award from the American Society of Public Administration.

I entered the private sector in 1980 as the Executive Vice-President of the Virginia Peninsula Economic Development Corporation, directing industrial and commercial real estate marketing and project financing for seven public agencies in southeastern Tidewater ,Virginia.  In 1982, I returned to California as General Manager for Campeau Corporation’s Northern California Housing Division, where I managed four real estate projects and handled public agency negotiations for the firm.

Later in 1982, I returned to the Los Angeles County Board  of Supervisors, where I combined  the County's disparate economic development, community development, housing and redevelopment functions into a single agency: the Los Angeles Community Development Commission, and was the Commission's first Executive Director. The CDC continues to this day, serving the largest urban county government in the country. Two years later, I was appointed Chief Administrative Officer for the County of Los Angeles.

I returned to Long Beach in 1987 as City Manager where I continued the transformation of the community with the successful redevelopment of its core downtown and oceanfront areas. 

How have you been involved with CSULB as a alumnus?

I have been a guest lecturer at many colleges and universities including Harvard, the University of Southern California, California State University, Long Beach, and the University of California, Davis. I have been named a distinguished alumnus by California State University, Long Beach, California State University Los Angeles and Long Beach City College. In addition, I am a member of the CSULB Alumni Association and a supporter of the President's Scholars program,

What are you doing today?

I still hunt several times a year and although I am experiencing the late effects of Polio called Post Polio Syndrome, I am Sr. Vice president for PsomasFMG LLC doing turnkey solar development for public agencies and commercial enterprises. I am on the Board of the Olson Urban Housing Company. In addition, I am also on the Boards of Goldstar Mothers Home, the Aquarium of the Pacific, Boy Scout Council, Rancho Los Alamitos Historic site and I am a member of Rotary.

My favorite hobbies are scouting ,hiking (when I still could) hunting and fishing and anything outdoors. Today, I have a cabin in Fawnskin on the north shore of Bear Lake and go there as often as I can to fish with my sons Kirk ( CSULB to College of William and Mary ) and Steve ( CSULB graduate) and grandson Dietrich.


James Hankla

James Hankla, '61, in 1959, while working for the County of Los Angeles at Carmeltios Housing project as a Recreation Leader.

James Hankla and his wife.

James Hankla and his wife, Jorene.

Mr. Hankla with a fish standing in front of his cabin.

James Hankla, '61, enjoying the great outdoors at Big Bear Lake.

Mr. Hankla and his wife celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

James Hankla, '61, with his wife, celebrating their 50th anniversary together in 2010.

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