Kirk E. Breed (Chile 1963–65) began a long and distinguished career in public service in 1963 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chile and concluded his career serving as executive director of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) from 2008 until his death on Wednesday, August 7, 2013, at the age of 73 after a brave battle against cancer.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, and their daughter, Cloe; three children from a previous marriage, Ashley (Chuck) Neumann, Shayna (Chris) Guigliano, and Monte Breed; three grandchildren, Wyatt and Halle Neumann and Piper Guigliano; and three sisters, Anna Osban, Gloria Headerlin, and Amelia Baugh and many nieces and nephews. His homespun ways stood out in the hard-boiled world of politics and endeared him to those who appreciated his plain speaking and simple truths. Upon learning of Mr. Breed’s passing Governor Jerry Brown reflected, ‘(Kirk) was a special, unique human being, he left a mark on everybody he touched- me included.’
As the Executive Director of the CHRB, Breed showed unshakable determination when it came to getting things done, especially when it involved improving a situation that conflicted with his moral compass, such as his efforts to improve the health and safety of racehorses in California. Breed eliminated unnecessary expenditures using the savings to fund a Racing Safety Program of his own design that focused on reducing equine fatalities in racing, establishing track safety standards, and developing strategies to reduce injuries in racing and training.
Breed was born on November 16, 1939, in the family farmhouse in Choctaw, Oklahoma, and his experience with horses began as a child; breaking, training, racing and selling horses which contributed to a strong work ethic and equally strong physique. He attended Oklahoma State University on a football scholarship graduating with a B.S. Degree in Zoology.
He was selected in the first class of JFK’s Peace Corps volunteers serving two years in Chile and then appointed as director of the Peace Corps in Colombia for five years (Colombia 1969-71), the youngest person ever been appointed director at the age of 29.
Returning home in 1972, Breed walked across the state of Oklahoma for George McGovern’s Presidential campaign confirming his status as a staunch Democrat. He then worked six years as director of planning and development with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.
Breed was a founding member of the Oklahoma Horse Council and wrote the legislation that became law as the Oklahoma Trails Act.
Mr. Breed came to call California home when he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as the general manager of the California Exposition and State Fair (Cal Expo) in 1979. Under his leadership, the California State Fair grew into one of the premier agricultural fairs in the country. He then served eight years on the Cal Expo Board of Directors leaving a legacy as a driving force for Cal Expo.
A Showman in the 80’s, Breed produced the America’s Wild West Show and toured the state. At the end of the show’s ruin he returned to State government in 1988 as senior consultant to the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. He oversaw legislation related to the horse industry. He drafted legislation, including major bills pertaining to safety standards at racetracks and satellite wagering.
In 1990, Breed started his own lobbying firm representing the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association and Ray Cammack Carnival Shows, among others.
‘I have owned at least one horse my entire life and have made a respectable living working for the horse and horsemen,’ Breed once said. A man’s man, Breed was an iconic cowboy who for over twenty-five years annually attended trail rides with the Flying Cowboys and Sonoma Trail Blazers. He was an expert horseman and competed in show jumping, polo, reining and dressage.
Breed was a Master Mason in Tehama Lodge #3, Sacramento, and a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and Past Master of Rose Croix, Sacramento Scottish Rite Bodies.
Along with his cowboy heritage, he was of Cherokee Indian descent, a mountain man, spoke fluent Spanish, practiced yoga daily, loved listening to classical music and opera, was a gourmet cook, avid reader and movie buff who’s favorite movie was Braveheart.
Kirk Breed will be remembered as force of nature, a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend. His story telling, smile, and humor will be missed but not forgotten and his huge spirit will surround us forever.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 22 at the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, 6151 H St. in Sacramento. A celebration will follow at Cal Expo. Donations can be made to the ‘Sacramento Horsemeds Association, Horses, Hope and Healing Fund’ to benefit children’s riding lessons.