By: Stan Lynch
I don’t recall when or where I frist met Leland C. Ayers over 40 years ago, but he was one of those guys you don’t easily forget.
Lee Ayers was the kind of person who, once he set out to do something, he got it done. His run for a seat on the Burbank City Council in 1973 was typical for Lee. He was in the race to win, and worked tirelessly to do so. And we all worked along side him as volunteers.
The election of 1973 was interesting in that three challengers were up against three incumbents. Lee, Bill Rudell, and Vince Stefano had an uphill fight. I didn’t know Vince at the time, but I was good friends with Bill. I worked on his campaign, too. I worked hard for both Bill and Lee.
Once during the campaign Lee approached me privately and expressed his concern about my working for two candidates. I replied to Lee, “I would hate to have to chose between you and Bill, because I’d sure miss you.” We never discussed the matter again.
I still remember the night Lee won, along with Bill and Vince, turning out the incumbents in a big upset. It was only going to be for one 4-year term, but once in office, Lee was truly in his element. Fortunately for Burbank, Lee was re-elected two more times. The things that Lee did for the city are a true monument to him.
Having Burbank firefighters trained as paramedics was one of the first things on Lee’s list. I remember accompanying him to Long Beach to visit that city’s fire headquarters and see how their paramedic program worked. Today it is a service we all depend on and possibly take for granted. If it wasn’t for Lee Ayers, we might not have it at all.
Lee loved aviation. He had his private pilot’s license and owned his own plane. When Lockheed Aircraft Corp. was considering the idea of selling off the airport, Lee was one of the first to push for the City of Burbank to buy it. He and Bill Rudell were instrumental in forming the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority that eventually bought the airport. Lee served for many years as one of Burbank’s Airport Commissioners.
Things didn’t always go Lee’s way. In 1975 he ran for Los Angeles County Supervisor. He made a valiant effort, but it just wasn’t to be. I recall his disappointment at not winning the race, but Lee wasn’t the kind of guy to dwell on failures. He had plenty of other things to do.
As often happens when people move away from Burbank, Lee and I lost track of each other. We last saw each other several years ago when the airport hosted a big anniversary party in one of the large hangers on the field. Lee remarked on the number of years, well over 30, since that first city council race. He still had that twinkle in his eye. Our last conversation brought back some great memories. Leland C. Ayers will be missed, but never forgotten.