This month marks the end of an era in Riverside as Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge departs from city office since first being elected in 1979. Though we prefer not to get overly political on this site (there are plenty of other places for that), say what you will, but we feel Loveridge will be recognized as one of the city’s best, most respected — and most respectful — mayors. Period. Yet, we also suspect he might be one of the most under-appreciated as well.
Mayor Loveridge grew up in Concord, California (east of Oakland), receiving degrees from Pacific and Stanford universities in Stockton and Palo Alto respectively. But he bleeds Riverside. He truly cares about this city, a city he (and his family) adopted in 1965 upon becoming professor of political science at UC Riverside. Those that know him, met him or collaborated with him know this to be true. Even his harshest critics have a difficult time denying this aspect.
Loveridge first served on Riverside’s city council (Ward One, downtown) beginning in 1979, during a time when downtown Riverside was still struggling to remake itself during America’s ongoing exodus to the suburbs. The Mission Inn, suffering from both decay and indifference, was not the fancy, nationally-recognized hotel it had been — and is again today. Likewise, much of downtown was mostly perceived as being old, dreary and dead. However, the 1985 start of the multi-year, $30+ million renovation of the historic Mission Inn was an early catalyst in downtown’s transformation into today’s much more balanced and lively landscape, where one can live, work, shop, eat, drink, stay and play — a notion Loveridge helped foster (and later reaffirmed in part with the city’s ambitious “Riverside Renaissance” public works project that began in 2006).
In 1994, Loveridge was elected as mayor — a position he’s held ever since — instantly returning the position to one of respectful stature. One of his most visible accomplishments was his commitment to being publicly accessible. His monthly “Mayor’s Night Out” program of public meetings at differing locations across the city helped redefine the position as being open and accommodating to all. He also routinely attended various organizational meetings and events, somehow finding time to fit them into his busy “7-days-a-week” schedule. Also popular were the informal “Walk with the Mayor” outings that became part of his public routine in later years.
Moreover, Loveridge helped elevate the city’s profile during his tenure by serving on several regional, state and national boards and committees, including stints as president of both the League of California Cities and the National League of Cities (where he was the first president from California to serve since Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1974). Also noteworthy was Riverside being named an “All America City” in 1998 and the city having been recognized for numerous environmentally-friendly programs and policies, including being named by California as the state’s first “Emerald City” in 2009.
We agree, however, with some who say his profound plans sometimes got bogged down in the bureaucracy and weren’t always implemented (nor were able to always be implemented). Indeed, there was a tendency to over study and over analyze things, which often resulted in highly technical concepts and bureaucratic paralysis. In his defense, however, this is how American government has become: regulated and complicated. Additionally, his quiet, intellectual style of leadership could be intimidating to some while at times others deemed it ineffective. Regardless, we believe both his ideas and demeanor displayed a man of great intellect, vision and respect that Riverside (and the region) can be — and should be — proud of.
Between his city council and mayor positions, Loveridge was the city’s longest serving mayor (5 consecutive terms / 18 years), and likely its longest serving elected official (33 years overall). (Edward V. Dales served 29 years in elected office — 16 as councilman and 13 as mayor.)
Although the city was founded in 1870 and officially incorporated in 1883, it wasn’t until 1907 that an elected mayor was established as part of the city charter. Prior to this, elected members from a board of trustees selected one of the board’s officers as president, the last one — C. L. McFarland — having served from 1904-1907. Since then, there have been 17 different mayors (including incoming Mayor, William “Rusty” Bailey). (It should be noted the mayor’s position was weakened considerably in 1952 upon voter approval of a “council-manager” form of governance, essentially making the mayor and council the legislative body with the city manager becoming the chief executive responsible for carrying out their directives.)
Two mayors — S. C. Evans Jr. and his nephew William C. Evans — served separate, non-consecutive terms. One mayor — L. V. W. Brown — was killed in an auto accident in Upland a mere 12 hours after his 1922 inauguration ceremony, leaving any potential legacy to former mayor S. C. Evans Jr. appointed in his place. (S. C. Evans Jr., who was the son of an early Riverside pioneer, would later suffer a similar fate, dying prior to his third, non-consecutive elected term in 1933, with future mayor Eugene B. Criddle appointed to take Evans’ place.)
Also, there has been one mayor recalled (Edward M. Dighton in 1929) and one woman elected as mayor (Teresa R. Frizzel, 1990-1994). Incidentally, since 1953 each mayor — with the exception of Frizzel — has been re-elected, serving at least three consecutive terms (Edward V. Dales 1953-1965, Ben H. Lewis 1965-1978, Albert C. “Ab” Brown 1978-1990 and Loveridge 1994-2012). And as of today, only former mayors Loveridge and Frizzel are still alive.
Within all that will fall Loveridge’s legacy, again, one we feel should be — and will be — recognized as among the best tenures.
Finally, filling Loveridge’s shoes will be quite the challenge. However, we trust (and believe) incoming mayor, William “Rusty” Bailey, is up to the task. And though the era of Loveridge technically ends at the hand-off, we know Loveridge’s legacy will remain influential for years to come.
- City of Riverside | Mayor’s Office | Seizing Our Destiny | Green Riverside | Explore Riverside
- UC Riverside – Oral History interview with Ronald O. Loveridge (1998)
- Riverside Magazine – The Exit Interview with Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge (Dec. 2012)
- Riverside Press-Enterprise – Mayor Loveridge leaves legacy after 32 years (Dec. 2012) | Update: City bids Mayor Ron Loveridge emotional farewell (Dec. 2012)
Photos courtesy of: *City of Riverside, **C-SPAN, ***Riverside Public Library, ****govtech.com
Sources: Riverside Public Library, Riverside Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside, UC Riverside, “A Colony for California” (Tom Patterson), westerncity.com (League of California Cities)