Former Burbank Mayor Leland Ayers, who was instrumental in acquiring Bob Hope Airport and creating the city’s paramedic service during his three terms on the Burbank City Council, died Monday at his San Diego County home, his family and friends said.
He was 80.
The two-time mayor was first elected to the council in 1973 and served until 1985, city officials said. During his tenure, he was involved in passing the joint powers agreement between Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena to acquire the Bob Hope Airport from Lockheed Corp.
Ayers, a hobbyist pilot, served as an Airport Authority commissioner for 13 years starting in 1977.
“He was very popular in the community,” said former Mayor Mary Lou Howard, who sat on the council with him in the late 1970s. “He was a wonderful councilperson.”
When Ayers was in office, one gadfly would picket him at City Hall with handwritten signs. Tired of the drab signs, Ayers had professional picketing posters created.
“If you’re going to picket me, I want it done with class,” Ayers said in an interview in 2002.
Ayers was instrumental in building the city’s paramedic system, said Vince Stefano, who also served on the council with Ayers. “He almost single-handedly put together that program,” Stefano said.
A photo of Ayers and Burbank’s first nine paramedics — who trained in 1975 — still hangs in the Burbank Fire Training Center, said Burbank Fire Chief Tom Lenahan. “Back then they had squads and rescues — they basically just put a couple firemen in a station wagon that had oxygen,” he said.
Stefano remembered Ayers as a “bundle of energy.”
When he and his wife, Mary Lou Stefano, were married almost four decades ago, Ayers wasn’t invited to the small family-only wedding. But that didn’t stop him from attending.
Ayers showed up in a Burbank firetruck, sirens blaring. “I looked at my husband and I said, ‘There must be a fire,’” Mary Lou Stefano said. “Then there was Lee.”
“I thought it was great,” Vince Stefano said of the prank.
Ayers is survived by his wife, Joyce, his son and his two grandchildren.
A viewing will be held Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Eternal Hills Mortuary, located at 1999 El Camino Real in Oceanside. A memorial will be held at the same location on Monday at 10 a.m.