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Sheila Kuehl
Name at BirthSheila Ann Kuehl
BornFebruary 9, 1941
BirthplaceTulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles
Harvard Law School
OccupationLawyer, politician

Sheila James Kuehl (born February 9, 1941) is an American politician, and a former child actress, currently the member of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors for District 3. She most recently served as a Democratic member of the California State Senate, representing the 23rd district in Los Angeles County and parts of southern Ventura County. A former member of the California State Assembly, she was elected to the Senate in 2000 and served until December 2008. She represents the 3rd District of the Board of Supervisors.[1]

Early life and acting career

Kuehl was born Shiela Ann Kuehl[2] in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her father was Catholic and her mother was Jewish.[3] As a child actress with the stage name Sheila James,[2] Kuehl played Jackie, Stuart Erwin's tomboy daughter, in the television series The Stu Erwin Show (also known as Trouble with Father) from 1950 to 1955.

She is probably best known for her portrayal of teenaged genius Zelda Gilroy, the wannabe girlfriend of the title character in the television series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963.[4] Zelda was originally intended to be a one-shot character in the early Dobie Gillis episode "Love is a Science", but Dobie creator Max Shulman liked Kuehl and had her signed on as a semi-regular cast member.[5] Signing a contract with Dobie producer 20th Century Fox Television required Kuehl, then 18 and in college studying theater, to change her major to English, so that Shulman, also a successful author, could act as her proctor on set in order to allow her to continue her studies.[5] Kuehl earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1962, during the show's final season.[6]

In late 1961, Fox shot a television pilot starring Kuehl entitled Zelda, for what it hoped would be one of television's first spin-off series.[5] However, CBS President Jim Aubrey]eventually rejected the pilot, with Dobie and Zelda director Rod Amateau telling Kuehl in private that Aubrey had found Zelda (and by extension Kuehl) "a little too butch for me."[4][7] Amateau did arrange for Kuehl to return to Dobie Gillis for the second half of its fourth season in late 1962, but the show was cancelled the following spring.

After Dobie Gillis ended its run, Kuehl (as "Sheila James") co-starred with Kathleen Nolan, formerly of The Real McCoys, in the short-lived ABC television series Broadside, a female version of McHale's Navy, in its 1964-65 season. She also made television guest appearances on National Velvet, McHale's Navy, The Donna Reed Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, "Petticoat Junction", The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Marcus Welby, M.D. and The Ed Sullivan Show from 1963 to 1970.[8] By the end of the decade, acting roles had dried up for her. Though Kuehl "can't state with certainty that she was blacklisted" from further acting jobs over her sexuality, she claims that afterwards, "with few exceptions, the phone stopped ringing."[4]

Kuehl's only acting roles beyond 1970 were in two Dobie Gillis reunion projects: a 1977 sitcom pilot produced by James Komack, Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis?, and a 1988 television movie sequel Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis. In both productions, Dobie had married Zelda and the two were running the Gillis family grocery store and raising a teenage son named Georgie Gillis.

Legal career

After leaving the acting profession in the early 1970s, Kuehl became a campus adviser at her alma mater, UCLA, and eventually became an associate dean of students. In 1975, at age 34, Kuehl entered Harvard Law School, where she was elected class marshal and president of the student council. She received her J.D. in 1978. During her final year, she chaired the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first group of women to be admitted to the law school, and became the second woman to win Harvard's prestigious Ames Moot Court Competition, judged by a panel including Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.[3] She was recognized in the ABA's Law Student Division magazine as one of the nation's top five law students.[4]

After law school, Kuehl became an associate at Richards, Watson & Gershon in Los Angeles, where her practice focused on municipal law. She later became an associate at Bersch & Kaplowitz in Beverly Hills, practicing family, anti-discrimination, and civil rights law. In the 1980s Kuehl became an adjunct law professor at the University of Southern California, and later an associate professor at Loyola Law School. In 1989, along with Abby Leibman and Jenifer McKenna, Kuehl formed the California Women's Law Center to promote gender issues, including expanding the rights of divorced women and reforming hiring procedures in male-dominated professions, such as law enforcement.[4]


California State Assembly

Kuehl was elected to the California State Assembly in 1994, becoming the first openly gay person elected to the California legislature. She was later a founding member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. She served as Speaker pro tempore during the 1997–98 legislative session, becoming the first woman in California history to hold the position.

California State Senate

After three terms in the Assembly, she was elected to the California State Senate in 2000, beating Assemblyman Wally Knox in the Democratic primary and becoming the first openly gay person elected to the Senate.[9] Re-elected in 2004 with 65.7% of the vote, she was repeatedly voted the "smartest" member of the California Legislature.[10]

In 2004, Kuehl authored Senate Bill 1234, an omnibus act intended to protect Californians from hate crimes, which the bill defined as criminal acts committed in whole or in part because of the victims' actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with persons with any of those characteristics. The bill targeted crimes, not First Amendment-protected speech. It also protected undocumented immigrants from deportation due to reporting hate crimes, increased civil protections from discrimination, and provided for law enforcement training concerning crimes against homeless persons and law enforcement response to homelessness, bill was later enacted into law.

In 2006, Kuehl sponsored a bill to prohibit the adoption by any school district in California of any instructional material that discriminates against persons based on their gender or sexual orientation.[11]

Throughout her career as a legislator, Kuehl took a leadership role on health care policy. Her foremost objective was securing passage of legislation to establish a single-payer health care system in California.[12] SB 840 passed both houses of the legislature in 2006, but was vetoed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; it was reintroduced in 2007 and again passed the state Senate, with a vote pending in the Assembly.[13] SB 840 passed both houses of the California legislature in August 2008 and was, again, vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

Kuehl was criticized by some for regressing reform of California paternity law.[14][15]

State healthcare plan

On January 28, 2008, The New York Times reported that Kuehl planned to vote against a health care plan sponsored by Governor Schwarzenegger and supported by a majority of Democrats in the Assembly, while opposed by a majority of Republicans. Her opposition along with the opposition of Senator Leland Yee led the Times to predict that California's widely touted healthcare bill – widely but inaccurately called "universal" coverage – would be effectively killed.[16] However, by the time the bill came to the Senate Health Committee, chaired by Kuehl, all but one of the Democratic Senators on the Committee had grave doubts about the bill and, after an eleven hour hearing on the bill and an intervening week to caucus, on January 28, 2008, one Democrat voted yes, three abstained and three (including Kuehl), along with all Republicans, voted in opposition.


Kuehl left the California State Legislature in 2008, as the result of term limits, after serving 8 years in the Senate and 6 years in the Assembly.

Since 2010, Kuehl has hosted "Get Used To It", a national cable show on LGBT issues, filmed in West Hollywood, California.

Los Angeles County Supervisor

Kuehl announced her candidacy to replace termed-out District 3 Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in 2013. She won the seat in the November 5, 2014 election against Bobby Shriver.[1] She is the first openly gay member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and took office on December 1, 2014.[17]

District 3 covers western Los Angeles County, including the Westside, San Fernando Valley, Malibu, and the Santa Monica Mountains.[18]


  1. 1.0 1.1 L.A. "Sheila Kuehl beats Shriver to join Board of Supervisors"; 5 December 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite video
  3. 3.0 3.1 Diliberto, Gioia. Sheila Kuehl, the Brainy Bird on Dobie Gillis, Likes to Lay Down the Law as a Professor. People Magazine.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Stan Sinberg (May 2014). The Many Lives of Sheila Kuehl. California Lawyer Magazine.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shostak, Stu (07-17-2013). "Interview with Sheila James Kuehl". Stu's Show. Retrieved 07-25-2013.
  6. David Tuller (1996-09-22). SUNDAY INTERVIEW -- Zelda Goes To Sacramento. San Francisco Chronicle.
  7. David Tuller (1996-09-22). SUNDAY INTERVIEW -- Zelda Goes To Sacramento. San Francisco Chronicle.
  8. Sheila James Kuehl - IMDb profile
  9. Dunlap, David W.. "THE 1994 ELECTION: HOMOSEXUALS; Gay Politicians Cite Gains Amid Losses", The New York Times, 14 November 1994. Retrieved on 28 September 2011. 
  10. Out's Power 50: Sheila Kuehl.
  11. Christie, Jim (April 7, 2006). California braced for battle over gays in textbooks. The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  12. SB 840 The California Universal Healthcare Act (June 12, 2007).
  13. SB 840 Passes Senate Floor, Heads to Assembly Health (June 7, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-07-29.
  14. Welch, Matt. "Injustice by Default - How the effort to catch "deadbeat dads" ruins innocent men's lives", Reason (magazine), February 2004. 
  15. Sealey, Geraldine. "Duped Dads fight child support", ABC News, October 2, 2002. 
  16. McKinley, Jesse. "California Governor’s Plan for Health Care in Trouble", The New York Times. 
  17. NPR 89.3 KPCC: "Election 2014: Kuehl wins LA Supervisors Race"; 5 November 2014.
  18. County of Los Angeles, Chief Executive Office: Third District Map, and list of the Cities and Communities within the District . accessed 5 November 2014.

External links

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