CARLSBAD — The city’s longest serving mayor, Claude “Bud” Lewis, died on Oct. 15. He spent 24 years as the mayor from 1986 until 2010 and was a council member since 1970.
“Mayor Lewis embodied the very best of Carlsbad,” said Mayor Matt Hall. “He devoted his life to public service and remained committed to the principles of a fair and open local government, accessible to everyone regardless of social or economic status.”
During Lewis’ tenure the city’s population grew nearly ten fold, from 15,000 to 105,000.
While he was a councilmember, Lewis helped draft the Growth Management Plan which was passed by voters in 1986 and is currently being updated.
The plan requires developers to pay for the roads, parks and services that their projects make necessary.
Lewis’ political career had an unusual start. He was a government teacher at Carlsbad High School and wanted to demonstrate to the students a key concept he believed in about governments.
“Lewis, a former Marine, defended the system, saying that a government was only as good as the people elected to office, and the key was electing the right people,” said Kristina Ray, communications manager for the city.
His students put his name on the ballot for city council and ran his campaign out of his home. While Lewis thought of it as an interesting civics experience for the kids, he won and was elected to the council three more times and later to serve as mayor for six terms.
Another of Lewis’ contributions that is still serving Carlsbad residents was his goal to make the city less reliable on imported water. He worked to bring a desalination plan to the coast, which is coming to fruition with the Poseidon Water Desalination Plant.
That plant is to be the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere and will provide water to 300,000 people daily when it is running, which officials estimate will be in early 2016.
During his long tenure as mayor, he saw voters approve the establishment of Legoland California in 1993, which opened in 1999, the same year the Flower Fields were deemed an official destination.
According to Hall, Lewis left Arkansas with his family during the Great Depression to find a better life in California.
Lewis was a weapons instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years during the Korean War in 1951.
Current and former councilmembers only have shining things to say about Lewis.
“He wasn’t prone to telling people what they wanted to hear, but he told them the truth,” said Councilmember Lorraine Wood. “He stayed true to the motto that what was right for Carlsbad wasn’t always popular, and what was popular wasn’t always right.”
She served as the city clerk during Lewis’ long mayoral tenure.
“I learned so much from Buddy Lewis because he taught me early on that there is no ‘I’ in serving on the City Council,” former Councilwoman Ann Kulchin, who served with the mayor for 30 years, said. “I cannot do anything. We can accomplish so many things. In all the time I served with him I never heard him say, ‘I.’ It was always ‘we’ or ‘the council,’” Kulchin said.
The former mayor leaves behind two children, two grandchildren and his second wife, Sibylla Voll, whom he recently married.
The city is holding a memorial service Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. at Carlsbad Community Church at 3175 Harding St.