Joseph A. Dear, 62, who was appointed by President Clinton to run OSHA in 1993, died on February 26 in Sacramento, CA. The cause was prostate cancer, according to a statement issued by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), where Mr. Dear worked as the chief investment officer.
Mr. Dear ran OSHA from 1993 to 1997, a period when Vice President Al Gore used the agency to spearhead his “reinventing” government project which called for federal agencies to be more customer-friendly and solution- and consultative-oriented. Though OSHA has remained a workplace safety laws enforcer and infrequent standards-setter, the pivot OSHA made 20 years ago to become more education and training focused has remained a sustained activity. Safety and health alerts, safety apps, electronic training tools, a web-based “A to Z” knowledge bank on safety and health topics are staples of the agency in 2014. The OSHA web site received more than 205 million visitor sessions in fiscal year 2012. In FY 2013, 206,750 calls were made to the OSHA 800 number, 26,899 questions were submitted by email, 735,126 students were taught thought the agency’s outreach training program, and 811,807 OSHA publications were provided, according to OSHA.
Two of the programs he managed at OSHA and the Department of Labor and Industries received Innovations in Government Awards from the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, according to the CalPERS statement.
Mr. Dear was born in Washington, DC in 1951. Prior to his stint at OSHA, Mr. Dear had been director of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries. He returned to Washington State in 1997 to be chief of staff to Gov. Gary Locke.
Mr. Dear became head of Washington State’s public pension fund in 2002. In 2009, Mr. Dear took charge of CalPERS investments, which had fallen almost 25 percent in 2008 to $183.3 billion, from $253 billion a year earlier, according to The New York Times. Mr. Dear, the former safety boss, proved to be a risk-taking investor, committing more fund money to private equity and hedge funds, believing they would help achieve returns better than those in public markets, according to The Times. His bets paid off, and Mr. Dear restored the pension fund to health after the 2008 global financial meltdown, recouping all of its losses and proceeding to reach new heights of more than $283 billion, according to CalPERS.
Mr. Dear oversaw all asset classes in which CalPERS invests, including domestic and international equity, Treasury and agency debt, high?yield bonds, mortgage backed securities, real estate, corporate governance, currency overlay, securities lending, venture capital, leveraged buyouts, commodities, infrastructure and hedge funds, according to his bio on the CalPERS web site.
Mr. Dear was responsible for the strategic plan for the CalPERS Investment Office, including tactical asset allocation, risk management, business development, budget authority, new investment programs, trading technology, staffing, and back office operations.
Mr. Dear also served as Chair of the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) Investor Advisory Committee, and was a board member of the Pacific Pension Institute. He also served four terms as Chair of the Council of Institutional Investors, according to his CalPERS profile.
With nearly 1.7 million members and $283.9 billion in assets, Calpers is the largest public pension in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
Mr. Dear was an “incredible leader,” according to the Calpers statement, known for his “passion for excellence in performance, his sharp wit and humor.” He was committed to making government work better through “innovative public policy and sheer force of will,” said Calpers.
From the boss of a small federal agency Mr. Dear rose to become “a powerful figure in the world of Wall Street money management, getting lower fees from private equity firms that wanted his business,” according to The Times.
“Joe Dear became Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA in late 1993, less than a year after AIHA moved its national office from Ohio to Washington, D.C. For an association like AIHA, becoming more involved in public policy issues was a tremendous undertaking. However, Joe became a strong supporter of AIHA, recognizing the importance of occupational health and safety professionals’ knowledge and expertise in making advances to protect worker health. There is no doubt that AIHA’s credibility and influence greatly increased because of Joe and his recognition of associations like AIHA. He will be remembered and sorely missed for his efforts to protect workers."