Bob Lewis Chosen as New Mayor of Thousand Oaks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bob Lewis had more than his share of living in big cities such as Los Angeles and Berlin.

So when he left the U.S. Army in 1976, he chose a scenic neighborhood in Thousand Oaks. Lewis lives with his wife, Kathy, on Churchill Drive in Newbury Park facing Boney Ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.

Tuesday, the 47-year-old business attorney was chosen on a 4-0 vote as the city's new mayor. Judy Lazar was named mayor pro tem.

Lewis says his first goal is to make sure that his vista isn't spoiled.

"We need to redouble our efforts on open space," the Republican councilman said.

It could be Lewis' toughest year in office since he was elected in 1989 to replace Lee Laxdal, a councilman who resigned to take a job in Australia.

Supporters described Lewis as a hard-working politician who helped draft growth-control and ridgeline protection ordinances. But detractors lob the same barbs at Lewis that they did at his mayoral predecessors, Councilmen Frank Schillo and Alex Fiore.

Fiore and Schillo have aggressively promoted the city's Jungleland project, and they are facing a recall campaign launched by opponents of the development.

Schillo oversaw the groundbreaking last year of the Jungleland project and headed a group of city representatives who want to form a new council of governments for Ventura County.

Lewis said he will continue to promote the Jungleland project and will suggest cutting down the number of council meetings from four to two a month. But he said his first priority is to preserve undeveloped areas. Lewis plans to push hard next year when the council considers proposing a bond measure to buy undeveloped land to add to the city's greenbelts.

"We've got to come up with a means to buy it," he said.

During his 12 years on the Planning Commission and the council, Lewis has built a strong record of supporting environmental causes, said Rorie Skei, chairwoman of the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. Lewis also serves on the conservation agency's board.

"If he errs, he errs on the side of trails and open space," Skei said.

Economic problems also concern Lewis. Early next year, he plans to appoint a committee to help the Chamber of Commerce lure high-tech companies and retailers to Thousand Oaks.

He cites the city's loss of employers such as the Northrop Corp., which closed its Newbury Park plant and moved all of its employees to Los Angeles County.

"A lot of our businesses are having trouble," he said. "They're barely able to keep their doors open."

Lewis said his commitment to encouraging business is why he wants to make sure that the city's $64.8-million Jungleland development is carried out.

The city plans to build a new city hall and performing arts auditorium, but a private developer has an agreement with the city to build a hotel, offices and a movie theater complex on the 23-acre site at Conejo School Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

Lewis' critics say he faces a rocky year if he continues to push the project.

"I think what he will find out is he's out of tune with the public," said Heinrich (Corky) Charles, a former planning commissioner.

Dick Booker, one of the leaders of the recall campaign against Schillo and Fiore, said the group will oppose Lewis when he runs for reelection in November, 1992.

Lewis said he is not concerned about the next election.

"It'll be whatever it is," Lewis said. "I don't sit around and worry about that."

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