Photo: Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Shaw and former Fountain Valley Mayor Gus Ayer
Gus Ayer, a former Fountain Valley mayor who was well-regarded in political circles throughout Orange County for his coalition-building and ardent environmentalism, died Wednesday. He was 63. Ayer, a 33-year resident of Fountain Valley, was a member of the City Council from 2002 to 2008 and served as the city’s mayor in 2007, presiding over Fountain Valley’s 50th anniversary celebration,” according to the O.C. Register.
The OC Weekly reported that Ayer passed away from a possible heart attack, and that he served as a campaign advisor to former Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook in her bid to defeat Dana Rohrabacher in the race for the 46th district congressional seat in 2008.
Cook lost that year and so did Ayer – he was so busy working on her campaign that he lost his mayoral re-election campaign in Fountain Valley. He also ran the failed Assembly campaign of Melissa Fox a few years later, but he had a great year in 2012, as outlined by Orange Juice blogger Vern Nelson, who wrote the best Ayer obit so far. Here are Ayer’s 2012 victories:
- We defeated the scheme to put toll lanes on the 405 (though it could come back); as part of that fight Gus created the No 405 Tolls.com website; as a side effect we helped get Diana Lee Carey, who’d been active on that issue longer than anyone, onto the Wesminster City Council in November.
- He was instrumental in defeating Chevron’s plans to develop Coyote Hills up in Fullerton;
- He was instrumental in defeating Matt Cunningham’s developer friends in Orange;
- He was instrumental in defeating JimRigheimer’s labor-destroying charter in Costa Mesa;
- He was instrumental in creating a positive majority in Huntington Beach with Jill Hardy and Jim Katopodis, and getting Sandy Genis back onto the Costa Mesa Council; as well as defeating the government-destroying Measure Z in HB.
And here’s what folks are saying about Ayer, who died far too soon, at 63:
- OJ blogger Greg Diamond: I will be proposing to the DPOC — with whom Gus had a fractious relationship, but he seemed pleased at the grassroots prospects for the upcoming term — creating a permanent award named after W. Gus Ayer for Environmental Activism within OC.
- John Earl, Surf City Voice: Regarding the “Poseidon campaign, read his last commentary (as far as I know), submitted to the Surf City Voice and published there at http://www.surfcityvoice.org/2013/02/can-the-municipal-water-district-of-orange-county-find-a-reason-to-exist/“
- Matt Leslie, Green Party of Orange County” Just got to know Gus last year when he helped with Jane’s council campaign and the campaign to defeat Chevron’s development plans for Coyote Hills in Fullerton. Every time I saw him he was smiling. I remember that booming laugh that always brought me along with him. He inspired everyone around him to believe that we could and should fight to protect and preserve our natural environment. You’re right Vern, it’s up to all of is to carry on.
“This is a huge loss to the entire county,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman, who met him more than 10 years ago during a League of California Voters dinner. The two had plans to hike near the Ortega Highway this weekend. “He was always optimistic in the face of opposition and was a very generous person,” Boardman said.
- “He was incredibly smart, a real numbers guy and he read absolutely everything,” said Fountain Valley Councilwoman Cheryl Brothers. “He will be missed.”
Ron Cook, 29, is Eliot Ayer’s lifelong best friend and is considered by the family to be “like a son.”
“When my family couldn’t fulfill their responsibility,” Cook said, fighting back tears, “Gus was like a father to me.”
- “A lot of consultants only care about winning,” said Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Shaw, who said Ayer was his best friend and mentor. “But Gus cared about the causes and people loved him for it. He was an inspiration.”
- “So many depended on him to fight the good fight, to be there for them,” wrote Heather Pritchard. ” It’s a void that will be so difficult to fill, not just a void in my heart, but in our collective organizing ability.”
The Memorial Service for Ayer will be held on Sunday, Feb. 24th from 2 -4 p.m. at the Mile Square Park Nature Center, according to Greg “Gericault” Ridge.