Former Surf City Mayor, State Insurance Commissioner Candidate Wes Bannister Dies

Wes Bannister, who'd been a Huntington Beach city councilman and mayor and ran unsuccessfully three times for state Insurance Commissioner, died last night after a lengthy illness. He was 73.

Clockwork recalls Bannister as one of those Republicans not generally found in Orange County. The French pronounce them, le moderates.

A mark of what kind of man Bannister was is found in the condolences that came from newly elected Rep. John Garamendi (D-Fairfield), who defeated Bannister for California Insurance
Commissioner in 2002.

“One of the
real joys of a political campaign is to have an opponent that you not only
respect but come to value as a close and dear friend,” said Garamendi, who was lieutenant governor before his election to Congress in November.
“Wes was one of a kind. For more than 20 years I knew Wes as an
extraordinary leader not only in the insurance community but on water policy
and recycling. He helped to create the recycling that is so critical to
California's future. I will miss him greatly and I join his family and
friends in mourning his passing.”

Bannister almost escaped Weekly snark, not really appearing in our pages on online until we  handicapped the race for the Republican nomination he eventually won in 2002: “A local in the insurance biz, Wes Bannister of Huntington Beach, is running in this race, as is unknown businessman Gary Mendoza,
but anyone who could persuade the secretary of state to include the
nickname “Watchdog” [Stefan Stitch] on the ballot is obviously a can-do guy worthy of
your vote. Besides, whichever of these guys wins will lose badly to the
high-powered Democrats seeking the office forever disgraced by
Republican Chuck Quackenbush.”

Bannister also ran unsuccessfully in the first election for Insurance Commissioner, in 1990, and again in 2002.

“I am deeply saddened by Wes' death,” said California's current Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner. “My thoughts and prayers
are with his family at this time. Wes made the historic run to be
California's first elected Insurance Commissioner and he nearly made
He broke new ground and helped to set the standard for all future
campaigns for
Insurance Commissioner.

knew and appreciated Wes as someone I could
count on
to tell me what he really thought and why about any subject,” Poizner
continued. “. . . He had that rare down home ability to understand
things and
to be able to explain them in a way everyone could understand. He will
be sadly
missed by us all.”

Bannister graduated from Sweeney High School in Texas and
thereafter studied at Kemper Military School in Missouri He studied and graduated from
West Point and later went on to study and graduate from the University of
Houston. That's where he met his wife, Elizabeth Ann Rogers. They married at
Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1959. Bannister served as a captain in the U.S. Army and was honorably

He went on to work in the insurance business for 40 years, having started a Huntington Beach agency in 1974. He was elected to the Huntington Beach City Council in 1986 and eventually became mayor of what was then California's 11th largest city. He left the council in 1990.

The governor appointed Bannister to the 10-member Governing Committee of the California Fair
Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) plan, where he is said to have worked feverishly to secure claims for
those who had lost their belongings to wildfires in Julian and other California
areas prone to fire.

He also served as chairman to the 37 member board of the
Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the largest water agency in the world with an annual budget of $2 billion. Bannister championed water recycling while at the MWD.

He was surrounded by his family when he passed away. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Ann Bannister; his children Alice Elizabeth Bannister and
Douglas Mastin Bannister, daughter-n-law
Kristie Diane Lundquist Bannister, and grandchildren Kaitlyn Michelle Bannister and Brent Douglas
. Another daughter, Catherine Ann Bannister Paugh, died in

The family requests that those wishing to honor Bannister's life contribute to the Julian Medical Foundation.

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