Publication 216, The First 100 Years


The Brief Unseating of Chairman Collins

In 1934, Miss Orfa Jean Shontz of Los Angeles became the first woman to win election to the Board. Her margin of victory was very narrow. Nevertheless, she moved at once to wrest the Board chairmanship from Richard E. Collins of Redding who had served as Chairman for more than twenty years. At the first meeting she attended, Miss Shontz joined forces with Controller Ray Riley and Member John Corbett to elect Riley Chairman. Collins and Fred Stewart voted against Riley. Riley was the only Controller ever to serve as Board Chairman. Miss Shontz then launched a wholesale removal of Board employees known to be supporters of Mr. Collins, and replaced them with her own supporters. At that time, the new civil service system became effective, and many of her appointees were unable to pass the competitive examination required to maintain their appointments.

During the same period, rumors circulated of misconduct in the Liquor Division of the Board’s Los Angeles office. A State Senate Committee investigated the allegations, and Miss Shontz resigned from the Board to accept an appointment by Governor Merriam as a Municipal Court judge in Los Angeles. To replace her, the Governor named Ray Edgar of EI Centro. At the next meeting, Collins was elected Chairman, and held the position until 1945. In addition to serving almost 30 years as Board Chairman, Collins served ten full terms as a Member of the Board, from 1907 through 1946. This remarkable record was equalled by George R. Reilly of San Francisco, and surpassed when Reilly was elected to his eleventh term in 1978. Reilly has now held office longer than any other elected state official in the history of California.