The name Carmen Perino (pictured at left) may not mean much to current residents of San Joaquin County, but from the 1960s until 1980 he was a major political player. For more than a decade, the San Joaquin County Historical Museum has held 122 full-size archival boxes of his professional papers, unable to arrange them and make them available to patrons due to their extensive volume, limited space at the Museum, and restrictions in funding and personnel. Yesterday, volunteers and members of the Museum staff handed them over to the California State Archives in Sacramento, which has more space and people power and will be better able to preserve the material and make it accessible to researchers.
Perino was born in 1922. He attended public school in Stockton, spent three years in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, and returned to Stockton after discharge to become a printer. Half a decade later, he entered politics and steadily worked his way up the ladder.
Perino started his political career as a member of Stockton’s Planning Commission, where he sat for a decade. Between 1960 and 1974, he served on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, which he chaired for three terms. In 1974, 1976, and 1978, Perino won election as a Democratic assemblyman for the district that included most of San Joaquin County, and he successfully fought off two attempts at recall in 1979. He died in 1997 at the age of 74. Two years later, his estate gave his professional papers to the Museum.
Perino’s collection spans most of his political career. It includes correspondence, campaign materials, and documents related to various committees at the county and state levels. Photographs, press clippings, voting records, and a variety of files related to topics of interest to Perino and his constituents can also be found in the collection. Among other documents are analyses of legislation on which Perino voted, as well as administrative records from his office.
According to personnel at the State Archives, very few California legislators from Perino’s era have given their papers to the repository. From the Archive’s perspective, the Perino papers represent an important acquisition that promises to help fill that gap.