Robert B. Carleson devoted his life to public service. While reforming the California welfare system in the early 1970’s under Ronald Reagan, Carleson pioneered reform measures that saved that state from bankruptcy and that 25 years later would bring about the greatest change for good in America’s system of helping its neediest citizens since the 1930’s.
Carleson, a native of Long Beach, California, in 1949 received naval scholarships to University of Utah and University of Southern California (USC). In 1953 he received his degree in public administration from USC and a commission in the U. S. Navy. From 1953-56 he served in the Far East and Korea, including two years with the First Marine Division in Korea, Camp Pendleton in California and a one year tour on the heavy cruiser U. S. S. Bremerton, which included combat in Korea. After his naval service, he did post graduate work in public administration at the University of Southern California and was an administrative intern the Beverly Hills City Administrator's office.
He served as Administrative Assistant to the Director of Public Works for the City of Beverly Hills from 1956-57. After working as City Clerk and Assistant to the City Manager of Claremont, California from 1957-58, and as Senior Administrative Assistant to the City Manager of Torrance, California from 1959-60, he was City Manager of San Dimas, California from 1960-64, and City Manager of Pico Rivera, California from 1964-68.
Carleson joined the administration of Governor Ronald Reagan as Chief Deputy Director of the California State Department of Public Works (now the Department of Transportation) in 1968.
Carleson first received notice in welfare policy as the chief architect of Governor Reagan's successful welfare reform program, and its principal implementer as Director of the California State Department of Social Welfare in 1971-72. As a result of the success of California's reforms, he was brought to Washington, D.C. by Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Casper Weinberger to be U. S. Commissioner of Welfare from 1973-75 with instructions to carry California-style welfare reforms to governors and state legislators. During his tenure in Washington, the national welfare rolls dropped for the first time since World War II as they had done in California during his tenure there.
The Washington Times — "Robert Carleson, the quiet giant" (download PDF)
Investor's Business Daily — "Revolutionary Hero" (download PDF)
The Free Congress Commentary — "The Late Robert B. Carleson – A Free Congress Senior Fellow Of Lasting Achievement" (download PDF)