SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed a former San Diego area assemblywoman who fared poorly in consumer group ratings to head the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
Charlene Zettel, the first Latina Republican to serve in the Legislature, represented the 75th Assembly District from 1998 to 2002. Generally considered to be a moderate, her legislation included a bill to provide parents with information about licensed daycare providers.
She lost a campaign for the state Senate in 2002 to fellow Republican Dennis Hollingsworth, R-La Mesa.
Since 2002, she has served as a member of the San Diego Regional Airport Authority board and as a public interest director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.
Before serving in the Assembly, Zettel was a member of the Poway Board of Education for six years and a dental hygienist for 20 years.
She also was a member of Schwarzenegger’s transition team after he was elected to replace recalled Gov. Gray Davis last October.
Schwarzenegger said that as consumer affairs director Zettel would protect Californians by “setting high standards of quality for businesses and individuals providing goods and services to consumers.”
But Zettel didn’t fare well in ratings by a consumer group when she was a legislator. The Consumer Federation of California gave her scores of 11 percent in 2000, 17 percent in 2001 and 24 percent in 2002 out of a possible 100 percent rating.
“She hasn’t distinguished herself in any positive way here on consumer issues,” said Richard Holober, the group’s executive director. “But we want to work with her.”
Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said Zettel didn’t belong in the consumer protection post.
But state Sen. Dede Alpert, a San Diego Democrat who urged Schwarzenegger to appoint Zettel, said consumer groups should feel comfortable with the nomination, which can be rejected by the Senate.
“There probably are people who are stronger consumer advocates, but she’s fair-minded and a good listener,” Alpert said.
The Department of Consumer Affairs includes offices and boards that regulate a wide range of businesses and professions in California, including auto repair shops, accountants, architects, boxing, court reporters, dentists, doctors, pharmacists, nurses and veterinarians.