Richard Sklar, overseer of Bosnian reconstruction, dies at 74

It was no European vacation.

In 1997, after civil war had devastated Bosnia-Herzegovina, Richard Sklar headed straight for the hot zone to help. As President Bill Clinton’s special representative for civil reconstruction, he oversaw the massive rebuilding of society in the war-torn region.

An engineer by training, Sklar liked to tackle big projects, from revamping San Francisco’s sewage system to updating the city’s famous cable cars.

Sklar died of pancreatic cancer Jan. 20 at his San Francisco home. He was 74.

Longtime members of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, Sklar and his wife, Barbara, supported several local Jewish charities and institutions, including Jewish Family and Children’s Services and the Menorah Park project.

A native of Baltimore and graduate of Cornell, Sklar first made his mark as president of Allied Steel and Tractor in Cleveland. He moved to San Francisco in 1973, and three years later he oversaw construction of an S.F. sewer and wastewater treatment plant.

He later supervised construction of the Moscone Center, and served on the Public Utilities Commission, which oversaw the public transit system and water department. In that capacity, Sklar upgraded the city’s bus fleet and rebuilt the cable car system.

After that year in Bosnia, Sklar became an ambassador to the United Nations for management and reform. In 1999, he returned to the Balkans as special representative, working on independence for Montenegro.

In 2001 he was named by Gov. Gray Davis as an energy adviser during the power shortages that gripped the West.

Richard Sklar is survived by his wife, Barbara Sklar of San Francisco; his children, Karen Wong King of Santa Rosa, Eric Sklar of St. Helena, Marc Sklar of Phoenix and Pamela Sklar Ball of San Francisco; a brother; and eight grandchildren.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.