Not everyone knows Eileen Reynolds.  But, among real estate lobbyists she’s iconic, a giant.  She’s getting ready to retire and she will be sorely missed.

Eileen started out her career reading bills for the REALTORS.  She learned a lot about lawmaking during that time.  But it was her work ethic that got the attention of the higher-ups at the REALTORS and soon she found herself at the state Capitol, portfolio of bad bills in hand, on a mission to defeat them.

It wasn’t long after that time I was hired by the state homebuilders, CBIA, to be their chief lobbyist.  I’d heard about this person Eileen Reynolds – she was a legend even in her formative years – but I’d never had the opportunity to stand alongside her and her wickedly beautiful, ever-present smile to fight for the rights of private individuals to develop their property, something I relished.

Of course, that didn’t happen as I was pitted against Eileen during my first encounter with her.  Indeed, while it rarely happened in real estate lobbying that homebuilders found themselves opposite the REALTORS. But, it did during my first session as a lobbyist – I was supporting a piece of legislation that the REALTORS were lobbying against.

Turns out that I won the battle at the Capitol – the bill passed – only to lose the war in the Governor’s office four weeks later as he vetoed the measure.  After that, I became wise to the political reach of Eileen Reynolds and tried mightily to always be on her side.  Luckily, that happened for the rest of my time.

Early in her career she met and married Dick Mannheimer, a true rocket scientist (he was actually a nuclear engineer).  Dick, a perfect gentleman, had a lot to say but rightfully demurred when Eileen had the stage during those far too few social events I attended where she was present.  It was unintentional, I’m sure, but Eileen was like those old Dean Witter advertisements:  when she had something to say, you best stop what you were doing to listen.

Dick got sick – his lungs stopped functioning correctly – and we thought we would lose Eileen for awhile.  But, while she was constantly at Dick’s side, giving him the care that a good man like him deserved, she rarely missed a step in her lobbying career.  When it came time to report on the bills she was covering – as it did every Monday during a meeting of industry lobbyists – she, every week, had more insight about each measure to share with us than most of her contemporaries combined.

Eileen always had our attention but she caught the eyes and ears of a large landowner in northern Los Angeles County and south Kern County that was interested in developing its real estate holdings but needed someone to guide its political strategy in Sacramento and Washington, DC.  Soon, Eileen became the government affairs “go to” person at Tejon Ranch.

With plans to start building communities at Tejon Ranch a decade or more away, we expected Eileen’s activities in the Sacramento political process to diminish.  We were wrong, of course.  Eileen grabbed her task by the horns.  She worked with noted contract lobbyists.  She made a point to attend personally all the campaign events of lawmakers from the region.  And, she kept her profile high – engaging on all development issues not to mention those dealing with agriculture and water.

As a result of Eileen’s work (and that of many others affiliated with Tejon Ranch), a major environmental deal was struck in 2008, the Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement, which would ensure environmental protection of 90-percent of Tejon’s 270,000 acres while allowing the future development of three first-class master planned communities that will deliver roughly 34,000 housing units of all types.  In addition, the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center with its Outlets at Tejon is currently thriving, and an excellent precursor to great things to come at Tejon Ranch.

In 2010, after 23 years of marriage and being together for 31 years, Dick died.  He’d undergone countless surgeries to fix his faltering organs.  Doctors tried everything but finally his ravaged body couldn’t take it anymore.  Of course, Eileen was by Dick’s side throughout it all.

Since Dick’s death, Eileen has been as ebullient and outgoing as ever.  She kept her political schedule – attending seemingly endless campaign events.  At CBIA, she rose to the top job of Chairman – the highest honor for volunteer members. She also chaired CBIA’s School Bond Finance Committee, which successfully passed Proposition 51 in 2016.  Meanwhile, Tejon plainly got more than their money’s worth during her tenure.

So, it was with that patented smile of hers one recent night that Eileen told me she was retiring.  She plans to stay busy – serving as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, becoming more involved in her community in Folsom, and helping raise and inspire two teens and a young adult with her boyfriend, David Javaheri.  She also may do some consulting, but she is noncommittal to it at this time.  Eileen says it’s just finally time for a break.

I quit lobbying more than a year ago and I’m going to miss her.  Indeed, those associated with the cause of freedom – to do what you wish on the property you own – are truly going to miss her.  You see, while I was at the state Capitol there were a few of us who really believed what we were doing was morally and constitutionally just.  It’s what organized and united us – a handful of real estate lobbyists.

Eileen was one of us and we were fortunate enough to ride her coattails during the many battles we fought together.  She was one of the best.