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Mayor coming to end of four decades in office

CARLSBAD — Mayor Claude A. “Bud” Lewis has long been synonymous with Carlsbad’s City Council.
Over the last four decades, he has diligently worked for the citizens of Carlsbad as both a councilman and longstanding mayor. As he sets his sights on the approaching end of his political career, he fondly looks back on his time serving the city and has plenty of hope for its future.
“It’s been a very enjoyable 40 years,” Lewis said.
Before starting his career as a city politician, Lewis was an admired history and government teacher at Carlsbad High School. He also worked as the head baseball coach and offensive coordinator for the football team.
Despite his already busy schedule, he wanted to bring city government to life for his students and did so in the only way he knew how — he ran for City Council.
“I was teaching a unit on government in U.S. History,” he said. “I told my wife that this was an experiment — get a few votes to show the kids how it would work.”
His students raised money and canvassed the city to gain support for their teacher. Several friends helped manage his campaign as he maintained his many responsibilities at the school.
He describes actually winning over the six other candidates as “kind of a fluke.”
“I was very taken aback,” he remembers. “I had never expected to win.”
Once appointed as a council member in 1970, Lewis saw Carlsbad “explode in growth and population.” He quickly noticed that developers were moving in on the prime opportunity to build and run, without contributing anything back to the city.
“The first four years were really revealing, because what the textbook said wasn’t the way it really works,” he said. “It really works around money and power.”
Lewis started voting against projects while studying growth patterns, which allowed him to devise a plan that would better suit the citizens of Carlsbad. A citizens committee was formed to review the growth management plan that would be utilized when Lewis ran and became the mayor in 1986.
“The plans became a reality,” he said of his notes jotted on a McDonald’s napkin that led to the new system. “Eventually it cost developers about $75,000 to build here and that’s how we started getting our parks and other things.”
As mayor, he also implemented several changes to the council to make the group more involved and efficient. Council meetings were changed from biweekly to four times a month. Before each meeting, the council must be briefed by the city staff, which played an integral role in researching and developing ideas into policies.
“The thing that must be remembered is that Carlsbad’s staff is a catalyst that makes things work,” Lewis said. “Without staff, you’re nothing.”
Lewis and the rest of Carlsbad’s council members serve on a number of local and regional boards that best align with their qualifications. Lewis has dedicated his time to both the San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, because he notes that water is important to the success of Carlsbad.
“Without water, you can’t bring in jobs and it’s going to be very difficult to finish out to the economic structure of Carlsbad or any city in the region,” he said.
He has spent 12 years working with the council and Poseidon Resources to secure the desalination plant that could meet most of Carlsbad’s water needs. The plant would supply more than 50 million gallons a day to San Diego County residents who currently use imported water.
“Poseidon now has all the permits and hopefully they can get their funding to build the desalination plant,” he said. “I feel very good about that.”
As Lewis steps down from his leadership role this year, he recognizes that the city’s residents have a big decision to make that will determine the future course of the city: voting in a new mayor in November’s election.
The two prime candidates vying for his vacant position are current council members Matt Hall and Keith Blackburn.
“Carlsbad is in great shape and the public has done very well in the selection of their candidates,” Lewis said. “They’re the public’s council.”