Longtime Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge is on the verge of being elected president of the National League of Cities.

Fresh from wielding a shovel in the groundbreaking for a Riverside community swimming pool, Loveridge gave an interview to PublicCEO.com in November.

Ron Loveridge surveys the national scene and sees a lot of California leadership.

At the same time that the Riverside mayor is seizing the reins as president of the National League of Cities, Valerie Brown of Sonoma is president of the National Association of Counties and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the first vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“It’s really an extraordinary time for national advocacy because of what is on the agenda of the president and the Congress,” said Loveridge.

“They’ll be completing the health care, it is climate change, it is transportation, it is immigration, the economy — these are the big issues facing cities across the country … In the past, cities have been too often in the bleacher seats watching this happen. Now we’ve been invited to participate.”

Loveridge is enthusiastic because of the Obama administration’s creation of a White House Office of Urban Affairs, which is effective in linking city reps to Washington policy makers.

The vote for president at the Congress of Cities and Exposition in San Antonio is scheduled for Nov. 14. Loveridge is running with no announced opposition.

The usual procedure for the league is a contested election for second vice president, with the winner serving in that capacity for a year, then a year as first vice president and then ascending to the presidency. Loveridge has followed that progression.

Loveridge notes that he will be the first Californian to head the organization since former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1974.

The national league is a fertile source of ideas. Loveridge cited the example of Riverside’s 3-1-1 service to direct calls and emails quickly to the proper city department, a concept that came from the reps of other cities talking about its usefulness at national meetings. Riverside’s successful 3-1-1 program (“One Call Does It All”) is about four years old, handling about 150,000 information requests a year, the mayor said.

Loveridge urges California cities to take advantage of national league programs that are fiscal winners. He cited 15 percent savings some California cities have realized through the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance, which allows local agencies to piggyback on competitively bid contracts and take advantage of the buying power of larger government purchases.

Similarly, many California cities take advantage of the national league’s Prescription Discount Card Program, which is designed to save city residents an average of 20 percent off the retail price of drugs at no cost to the city government.

The verdict on the federal recovery act is still out, Loveridge said. But cities can tap the national league’s help in knowing what grants to apply for to make sure federal dollars are best used in California cities.

“Part of life in this business is that cities get too focused on city limits,” Loveridge said. “You need to focus on: How do you get connected with innovations? That’s one of the great services the national league provides.

“We don’t exist in moated, walled cities any more,” said Loveridge. “The city is connected to the use of services and opportunities outside of city hall … Everybody agrees we need to increase access and reduce cost. Having said that, it’s the details that are difficult and complex.”

Lance Howland can be reached at lancehowland@aol.com