Ron Loveridge hasn’t been around forever, but sometimes it seems that way.
Loveridge is retiring after decades in public service that includes an unprecedented five terms as mayor of Riverside. But for a guy who built his career hundreds of miles from Sacramento, Loveridge has a remarkable profile in state government that extends far beyond his Inland Empire base.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Ron Loveridge,” said V. John White, a veteran renewable energy advocate well known in the Capitol. White is one of a small army of people in Sacramento who were mentored as students by Loveridge, a group that includes Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and an array of consultants, lobbyists, staff people and others scattered in an around the Capitol.
“You have pride in the kind of opportunity provided to many of the students at UCR who have been tutored over the years in internship programs,” said Loveridge, 74.
When you chat with someone who’s lived in Riverside for any amount of time during the past 30 thirty years, it’s likely they’ll have words to say about the champion of countless enhancements to infrastructure and the quality of life for the inland area.
“Even at a very difficult time, he was able to persuade the voters to support a very large bond issue that supported the Riverside Renaissance,” said White about the over $1.3 billion enhancement project launched in 2006. The project upgraded century-old infrastructure and remade several of the city’s iconic landmarks including the historic Fox Theater.
Apart from his mayoral duties, Loveridge has held numerous positions as a top air-quality and regional official, appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Air Resources Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Southern California Association of Governments, March Joint Powers, Authority and Western Riverside Council of Governments. His roles were recognized recently by induction into the prestigious national think tank the National Academy of Pubic Administration.
Outside of politics and governance, Loveridge has served as an associate professor for the UC Riverside department of political science, where he’s guided many to become successful in a career with government.
“I had the good fortune to have him as one of my professors and advisors when I started at UC Riverside,” White said. At the time, Loveridge established one of the very first college internship programs with Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
As an undergrad, White, currently the Executive Director for the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, thought he had dreams of working on Capitol Hill with elected officials.
“Loveridge said, “You need to learn about bureaucracy,” so he sent me to the EPA,” said White. “He said this will be better for you, and it was it ended up helping me begin my career in air pollution.”
Loveridge was named the director of the Center for Sustainable Suburban Development at UCR in January. “The center will support, and connect, the best of academic research with important policy choices for a sustainable future for this region and Southern California,” Loveridge said in an interview with the university’s paper.
Last September he was also appointed by Ontario’s City Council to serve on the city’s International Airport Authority, this position would oversee the area international airport once the facility is no longer operated by Los Angeles World Airports.
In 2010, Loveridge served as president of the Washington, D.C.-based National League of Cities, and organization he has been a member of since 2004. He was also president of the League of California Cities from 2003-04.
“He’s a great candidate, universally liked…by people of all walks of life and all party persuasions,” said prominent lobbyist Bob Giroux, then a political strategist for the Assembly speaker, who ran Loveridge’s campaign for mayor in 1991.
Before agreeing to do the campaign, Giroux challenged Loveridge to sit down and put on paper why exactly he wanted to mayor.
“He actually came up with a -point plant for the City of Riverside, which I think over the course of his 20 years as mayor he implemented the entire thing,” Giroux said.
Loveridge, who was born in Antioch and raised in the Bay Area, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific, and his M.A and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University. It was during his college years that Loveridge met his future wife, Marsha.
In August of 1965 the couple moved to Riverside, but not for political reasons.
“UCR was a relatively new campus then, and there were many good people who were drawn to it because it had the quality and rigor of a UC campus but small classes and it was very collegial,” said Jane Carney, a friend of Loveridge for more than 40 years.
Although he was raised in Northern California, Loveridge didn’t think twice about an opportunity to teach UC students in Riverside. It wasn’t expected he would change gears and get into local politics.
“He was so much the professor that I was surprised at him running. But he had a really good knack for listening and bringing people together,” White recalled.
“When he became mayor he readily realized that many of the most important issues facing Riverside could not be resolved only within the city boundaries,” Carney said about Loveridge’s efforts on air quality.
“It was a time when the city was under enormous stress. It was not doing well. It had lost its way, and you felt some opportunity and obligation to try to focus on a set of future values,” Loveridge said earlier this year in an interview.
Loveridge decided to campaign for a seat on the Riverside City Council, with a theme of ‘Pride in Riverside, Again.’ He was elected with 63 percent of the vote.
Since 1979, Loveridge has participated in City Council meetings, both as a representative for the Ward 1 area of Riverside and beginning in 1994 as mayor.
But no amount of experience could prepare Loveridge or anyone else for a council meeting that took place in October 1998.
A gunmen opened fire at member of the council, wounding six people. The assailant, 48-year-old Joseph Neale, was armed with a 9-millimeter handgun. Neale, described by police “to be a disgruntled employee,” had been let go from a position as chess coach for the city Parks and Recreation Department, on grounds he believed amounted to wrongful-termination.
Neale described his grievances in a 57-page manifesto titled,”Observations on Life in America as Seen from the Perspective of an African American Citizen.” It was sent to city officials prior to losing his position, and he believed this to be the reason for termination.
The essay was even read by Loveridge himself, who wrote a letter to Neale thanking him for his service with the city’s youth. A month later, Neale was fired.
The subsequent shooting and national attention for the incident would likely overwhelm most city officials, but Loveridge said in an interview with the Press Enterprise, “It went on. It wasn’t just a singular event. (It was a challenge) trying to keep the community focused and trying to see this as somehow lessons we had learned.”
But perhaps his greatest challenge was dealing with the scourge of the L.A. basin and the Inland Empire – dirty air.
“In one way or another, for nearly 50 years, I have been trying to reduce air pollution and enhance air quality,” Loveridge said. “But the work for clean air is not done. There is still a long way to go, to meet federal air standards and more importantly, to protect the health of the residents of Southern California.”
Ed’s Note: This story appeared earlier in California City News and is available here.