Harvard University > Kennedy School of Government > Case Study: Rebuilding Los Angeles

Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1992


By Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer

Copyright © 1992 The Times Mirror Company

Providing the Rebuild L.A. organization with a strong manager and perhaps broadened credibility, Chairman Peter V. Ueberroth has chosen Bernard W. Kinsey, a former high-ranking Xerox executive and major fund-raiser for the United Negro College Fund, to be his day-to-day operations chief.

Kinsey, 48, who has his own consulting business, was chosen for the key position after seeking Rebuild L.A.'s assistance in helping one of his clients, a Northern California company developing an electric car, to move to Los Angeles.

Ueberroth first met Kinsey eight years ago when the African-American executive coordinated the efforts of 300 Xerox volunteers at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

"I see this opportunity as a vehicle to satisfy my dreams," Kinsey said. "I have a passion for doing things for people based on the American dream."

Among those who recommended him for the job were David Kearns, a deputy secretary of education who heads the Bush Administration's interagency task force on the Los Angeles riots and was Kinsey's boss at Xerox, and John Mack, executive director of the Los Angeles Urban League, on whose board Kinsey formerly served.

"Bernard brings the unique combination of having operated as a high-ranking executive in corporate America. . . . And by the same token, Bernard is one of those brothers who has not forgotten his roots," Mack said.

Ueberroth's choice also was praised by several businessmen who have worked with Kinsey. "Bernard is a change agent and an overachiever," said Kent Amos, a former Xerox executive who has a consulting firm in Washington. "He believes in setting lofty goals and going beyond them," Amos said.

"He's one of the successful people who wants to give back," Ueberroth said of Kinsey, describing him as a manager with varied skills. Ueberroth stressed that Kinsey had made "a substantial sacrifice, both financial and in career pattern, to join us."

Although he has not been active in Los Angeles politics, Kinsey is friendly with Mayor Tom Bradley, who said Kinsey is well equipped for the new job.

Kinsey's selection may be particularly important in diversifying the public face of Rebuild L.A., which is seeking to create jobs and economic opportunities in neglected areas of the city. But more than that, he will serve as the organization's administrator, a role played by attorney Harry Usher in 1984 when Ueberroth headed the Los Angeles Olympics Organizing Committee.

Many community leaders, including outspoken Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), have criticized Bradley's choice of Ueberroth, a wealthy, white Newport Beach businessman, to head the rebuilding effort.

Although she originally supported another candidate for the No. 2 job, Waters described the choice of Kinsey as "a smart move."

Kinsey said he and Ueberroth are well suited to their tasks: "I don't think there's a better person in America to lead this effort than Peter Ueberroth." Ueberroth has access to the people who can break the pattern of disinvestment in the city's poor neighborhoods, Kinsey said.

"With Peter's access and my ability to translate it into action, we have a chance to do something meaningful and sustainable," he said.

Kinsey said that his lengthy record of fund raising for black students and work on the board of the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, which has strived to improve opportunities for minorities, provided an important background for the task. "I didn't just drop in off the moon for this job."

He stressed that he will not serve in a symbolic role.

"If at any point this becomes an affirmative action anything, I'm not interested," he said. "I'm no one's puppet."

Kinsey emphasized that he believes in "a meritocracy" and said his experience in the business world shows that diversity is essential to that end.

"I'll have an organization here where the No. 1 characteristic is competence, people that are sharp and have values of inclusion, not exclusion, people interested in the common good who can see the good in other people."

Dressed in a charcoal gray, pin-striped suit, the 5-foot, 11-inch Kinsey said his parents, Ulysses and Christine Kinsey, raised him to be successful.

"I got my aggressiveness from mother and my leadership and organizational abilities from my father," said Kinsey, sitting in his modest office at Rebuild L.A.'s downtown headquarters. Both parents were teachers and his father became a highly regarded principal in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Bernard, his brother and three sisters attended segregated schools.

He went to Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, the same historically black college his parents attended. In 1963, during his sophomore year, Kinsey met his wife, Shirley, as she emerged from jail after being arrested in a civil rights demonstration in which he also had participated.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1966, Kinsey worked at Exxon for five years. He said that in 1968 he was the company's No. 1 sales representative while supervising the operations of 19 service stations in South Los Angeles.

"We had 16 stations run by blacks, one by a Latino, one by a Japanese-American and one by an Anglo," Kinsey said in an interview.

Exxon brought personnel from other cities to observe the methods that Kinsey and his associates were using. "This was the first time I knew what winning was about in business," he said.

Kinsey joined Xerox in 1971, spent 20 years with the company and rose to become vice president for advanced marketing strategy.

At one point, he managed Xerox's largest sales and marketing region, with 2,500 employees and annual revenue of about half a billion dollars.

Kinsey also played a significant role in opening up management opportunities for minorities at Xerox, according to a Harvard Business School study. And he pushed the company to provide major financial assistance to business education programs at black colleges, including those at Florida A & M and Jackson State University in Mississippi, and to provide innovative computer programs at high schools.

He said he helped foster a corporate culture at Xerox where diversity "is something to be capitalized on, not just coped with." In 1986, Black Enterprise magazine called Xerox the best company in America for blacks.

Kinsey and a growing group of other black Xerox executives have lectured frequently at business schools about what they achieved at the huge company. He also has been active in the Executive Leadership Council, a group of black executives from Fortune 500 companies who try to increase opportunities for blacks to rise in corporate management.

Although he is a successful capitalist, Kinsey, a registered Democrat, is critical of the direction the country has moved since Ronald Reagan became President. He said there has been too much emphasis on short-term profits and not nearly enough on reinvestment and education.

"One of the biggest problems we have in this country is a lack of deferred gratification. . . . Why can't we get our minds on schools and libraries," he said, noting that cutbacks in education budgets have had a particularly harsh impact on minorities. Kinsey also emphasized that since 1980, the federal government has cut block grants to cities by 65%.

"Something is radically wrong with our leadership," he said. "Whether we can break that, I don't know. . . . Everything we're doing now in L.A. is remedial. We're going to have put as much money back as we took out in the last 15 to 20 years."

Although he would not elaborate, he said that "a number of Fortune 500 companies already have come through these doors wanting to reinvest in Los Angeles. I mean chairmen, chief executive officers with money in hand."

Kinsey said it is critical to bring skilled, high-paying jobs to the riot-affected areas, some of which could be obtained by gang members if Rebuild L.A. helps to provide them real opportunities for a different type of life.

Kinsey understands that it remains to be seen how his selection will be viewed by the Latino and Korean-American communities, who have been lobbying for a greater voice in the process.

He stressed that the six staff members who are running projects at Rebuild L.A. are minorities -- three Latinos, two blacks and one Korean-American. Kinsey said he and his colleagues are poring through 4,200 resumes of individuals seeking jobs at Rebuild L.A. -- many of them impressive.

"What's good about what's happening in America is we have a great number of qualified people who have the savvy to do things," he said. "That was not true in 1965," the time of the Watts riots.

"There are a lot of Bernard Kinseys out there. I got my education, put my nose down for 25 years, tried to give back to people in my community. I'm representative of a new type of individual who has come out of what we fought so hard for in the '60s."

Profile: Bernard W. Kinsey

A look at Bernard W. Kinsey, the newly appointed chief operating officer of Rebuild L.A.

Born: Sept. 20, 1943

Residence: Pacific Palisades

Education: Attended segregated schools in West Palm Beach, Fla. Bachelor of science in mathematics from Florida A & M University, Tallahassee, Fla., 1966. Master's in business administration, finance, Pepperdine University, Malibu, 1972. Honorary doctor of letters from Florida A & M, 1985, and honorary law doctorate, Alabama A & M University, 1989.

Career highlights: For Xerox: 1982-84, vice president, Los Angeles region; 1984-86, vice president of international marketing and business arrangements; 1986-87, vice president and executive assistant to the president; 1987-1990, vice president and general manager of voice systems division; 1990-1991, vice president of advance marketing strategy. In 1991, he started his own consulting company, KBK Enterprises Inc. He has served on the boards of the Los Angeles Urban League, the Museum of African-American Art and the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation. Major fund-raiser for various philanthropic and educational organizations, including chairing the first Magic Johnson-United Negro College Fund Banquet, which raised more than $250,000 in 1986.

Interests or Hobbies: Hiking.

Family/Personal: Lives with his wife, Shirley, who is also a graduate of Florida A & M, and their son, Khalil, 15, who attends Pacific Palisades High School.

Quote: "I see this opportunity as a vehicle to satisfy my dreams. I have a passion for doing things for people based on the American dream."

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