Mike Valles, who made his most indelible mark on San Bernardino County as an operative on behalf of a host of local politicians, passed away last month.
Born Amilcar Michael Valles to Gonzalo and Jovita Valles on March 19, 1930, he was the fifth of eight children. As both of his parents were fluent in Spanish but less conversant in English, he essentially taught himself English through reading local newspapers.
He graduated from San Bernardino High School in 1948 and then served in the U.S. Army. He subsequently attended and graduated from UCLA. A major portion of his career consisted of his work as a representative for various members of the California legislature, which intimately familiarized him with local issues, constituent advocacy, the mechanics of legislation, and politics.
Toward the end of his employment as a field representative for elected representatives, he became ever more active in campaigns, and eventually transitioned into a political consultant. He managed or directed scores of local races beginning in his 40s, at times working on as many as a dozen in a single election, ranging from candidates for Congress to the California Senate and Assembly, the board of supervisors, mayorships and city councils. Among his protégés were Richard Rodriquez and Bill Greenberg.
Valles, with some exceptions, worked primarily for Democrats, and occasionally for Republicans. He was much in demand, as he had mastered the formula for running a compelling campaign that would drive voters to the polls. Most of the candidates he worked for or backed proved victorious.
In time, a rivalry of sorts developed between Valles and both Rodriquez and Greenberg, who were devoted solely to promoting Democrats and Democratic Party causes. By the 1980s, Valles was at the height of his power and influence, with majorities on several city councils in the East Valley and a handful of members of the state legislature from the Inland Empire beholden to him for their presence in office. By the 1990s, Valles, in something of a Mephistophelean spirit, would seek out opponents of candidates who had hired Rodriquez and Greenberg, who at that point had formed a partnership. Valles would go to work for Rodriquez’s and Greenberg’s clients, simply to demonstrate that he could run a more effective campaign than Rodriquez and Greenberg could. In 1996, Valles found himself again in league with the pair, however, when they came together as a trio to quarterback the successful recall effort against Colton Mayor George Fulp. Shortly after Fulp was removed from office, Rodriquez died and the prospect that the Valles/Rodriquez/Greenberg team would form a virtually unbeatable juggernaut of local kingmakers was lost to history.
Valles remained as a factor in local politics. In 1997 he was a major contributor to the success his younger sister, Judith, had in her run for San Bernardino mayor. Following her strong showing in the November election, Judith proved victorious in the February 1998 run-off, making her the first Hispanic mayor in San Bernardino history. She served two terms.
Mike Valles’ continued as a presence on the local political landscape into the Third Millennium, albeit he was becoming less energetic.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, he faded peacefully into eternity, survived by three children from his marriage to Robin Valles – Arlo Valles, Mia Valles, and Lori Valles St. Denis and her husband Michael and their two children Emily and Juliana. He is also survived by his two sisters, Judith Valles and Ruth DeSadier, and many nieces and nephews.