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History of the Office

In Long Beach, the title of Mayor had its inception in 1908 with the completion of the new City Charter. Previously, the position equivalent to Mayor was referred to as President of the Board of Trustees. From approximately 1888 to 1908 Long Beach had 11 Presidents including:

1888 - 1890John Roberts
1890 - 1894Thomas Stovall
1894 - 1895I.G. Groucher
1895 - 1896W.H. Mintzner
1896 - 1897Elon C. Denio
1897 - 1900C.A.F. Johnson
1900 - 1903C.J. Walker
1903 - 1905Stephen Townsend
1905 - 1906Rufus A. Eno
(1906)Samuel Merrill (appointed after Eno resigned)
1906 - 1908Frank H. Downes

The City of Long Beach was disincorporated on May 28, 1897 and then reincorporated on December 14, 1897.

In 1908, the title of Mayor was established and continues today. However, until 1988, City Councilmembers voted the position of Mayor from amongst themselves. In 1986, a Charter measure under Proposition R passed to create a full-time, citywide elected Mayor.

In 1988, the first citywide election for the position of Mayor was held. Ernie Kell won in a run-off against fellow Councilmember Jan Hall. This first term was an interim one of 2 years, with the next election in 1990, where the term from that point on would be 4 years. In 1990, Mayor Ernie Kell ran against Councilman Tom Clark for Mayor and Kell was once again victorious.

In 1994, Mayor Beverly O'Neill was first elected as Mayor. In 1998, Mayor O'Neill won the Mayoral seat for her second term with nearly 80 percent of the vote. She then won an unprecedented third term as a write-in candidate in 2002. The dates that you see below represent the time that the individual actually served as Mayor.


1908 - 1912 Charles H. Windham  
1912 - 1914 Ira S. Hatch
1914 - 1915 Louis N. Whealton
1915 - 1921 William T. Lisenby
1921 - 1924Charles A. Buffum
1924 - 1926Ray R. Clark
1926 - 1927Fillmore Condit
1927 - 1930Oscar Hauge
1930 - 1933Asa E. Fickling
1933 - 1934M.E. Paddock
1934 - 1936Carl Fletcher
1936 - 1938Thomas M. Eaton
1938 - 1939Clarence E. Wagner
1939 - 1942Francis H. Gentry
1942 - 1945Clarence E. Wagner
1945 - 1947Herbert E. Lewis
1947 - 1953Burton W. Chace
1953 - 1954Lyman B. Sutter
1954 - 1957George Vermillion
1957 - 1960Ray C. Kealer
1960 - 1975Edwin W. Wade
1975 - 1980Thomas Clark
1980 - 1982Eunice Sato
1982 - 1984Thomas Clark
1984 - 1994Ernie Kell
1994 - 2006Beverly O'Neill
2006 - 2014Bob Foster
2014 - Robert Garcia

 Charles Henderson Windham (1908 - 1912)

Charles Windham was born on a ranch in 1871 near McMinnville, Tennessee. He began his young career working as a blacksmith helper and bridge carpenter's assistant on the old California and Oregon Railroad. Over the next several years, Mr. Windham worked on several railroads in many different capacities. He eventually went to work on the Nicaragua Canal, which the United States proposed to build. However, when the U.S. purchased the Panama Canal, work on the Nicaragua Canal ceased. Gradually, Mr. Windham worked his way up the ranks at the Costa Rica Railway, Ltd. as conductor, chief dispatcher, and finally trainmaster. After seven years, he resigned and purchased a coffee and sugar plantation in Costa Rica. He operated the plantation for seven years and then sold it to move to California to better educate his children. Upon arriving in California, Mr. Windham chose Long Beach, recognizing its great potential. Over a 20-year period Charles Windham served not only as Mayor for 2 terms from 1908 to 1912, but also as City Manager and Postmaster. He was responsible for conceiving the Long Beach breakwater, which opened up the Long Beach harbor as a world-shipping destination. For these efforts, and many others, he came to be known as the "Father of Long Beach Harbor" as a commemoration to his outstanding commitment to Port development. Charles H. Windham died on April 11, 1932 from complications associated with an influenza type illness. His wife of 40 years, his 2 sons, and 3 daughters survived him.

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Ira S. Hatch (1912 - 1914)

Mayor Hatch was born April 4, 1869, at Harmony, Somerset County, ME. He attended grade and grammar school there and at the age of 21 began a career of railroading. He studied at Southwestern University and USC after coming to California in 1905. Most of his career in Long Beach was in public service. He was elected City Auditor in 1907 and remained in that post until he became Mayor in 1912, serving two years. Under his leadership the government approved the consolidation of Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors by way of the Cerritos Channel. He was a member of the City Planning Commission, serving as president for many years. He was Seventieth District Assemblyman from Long Beach in the 1932 and the 1934 sessions of the State Legislature. Mayor Hatch died at 71 years of age, after suffering a heart attack

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Louis N. Whealton (1914 - 1915)

Louis N. Whealton was an attorney and served as Mayor for two terms. He was a native of Virginia. He received his law degree from the University of Maryland and went on to practice law in New York State before coming to Long Beach in 1910. He died in December of 1951 at the age of 79 after battling a long illness. He left behind one son. His wife died one year prior to his death.

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William T. Lisenby (1915 - 1921)

William T. Lisenby served as Commissioner of Public Property and Mayor of Long Beach from 1915 to 1921. He was known as the father of the city water system, serving in the water department from 1911 to 1921. As head of that department he saw the system grow from 200 meters to 15,000. Mayor Lisenby appointed the city's first Harbor Commission and was closely associated with C. H. Windham in harbor development and other civic progress. Mr. Lisenby was born August 14, 1865 at Panola, IL. He came to Long Beach in 1903. He died at the age of 79 in June of 1944.

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Charles A. Buffum (1921 - 1924)

Charles A. Buffum was born in Lafayette, Illinois on January 30, 1870. Upon completing his education, he engaged in the mercantile business for 10 years. He moved to California in 1904 with his brother Edwin E. Buffum. After moving to Long Beach, Charles and his brother formed the Mercantile Company and purchased the retail business of Schilling Brothers. This business expanded through the years and eventually came to be known as Buffum's Department Store, which was one of the finest in the Southland. Charles Buffum became well known in the community for his civic duties and eventually became a member of the Board of Education where he served for 6 years. In 1920 he was chosen as President of the Chamber of Commerce and then served as Mayor from 1921 to 1924. He was known for being a staunch supporter of the development of the Long Beach Harbor and was a member of the "Committee of 200" for twenty years which was charged with furthering port improvement. He was also Director of the State Chamber of Commerce. He was married in 1893 and had 3 children. He was a very religious man and supported his church throughout his life. He died in October of 1936 from a long illness associated with a heart ailment.

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Ray R. Clark (1924 - 1926)

Mayor Clark was born in Bardon, Wisconsin on September 8, 1872. He moved to Iowa with his family when he was 3 years old. In 1884 the family came to California, to settle in San Bernardino. Mayor Clark's father later moved to Anaheim, where he lived as a rancher. When Mayor Clark turned 17, he decided "to make his own way in the world." He took a position as a drug clerk in Pasadena. He liked the profession so much, that he decided to study and make it his life work. Mayor Clark came to Long Beach in 1907. He started his own business in San Pedro and later opened stores in Long Beach. In 1924 - Mayor Clark became a public servant, polling the largest vote ever given to anyone at the time. After the election, his peers unanimously appointed him Mayor. Mayor Clark's death was caused by an embolus.

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Fillmore Condit (1926 - 1927)

Fillmore Condit is most widely known for not only being the Mayor of Long Beach, but for also being the founder of Community Hospital. Throughout his life he donated more than $100,000 to Community Hospital and visited the hospital almost daily for more than 10 years.

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Dr. Oscar Hauge (1927 - 1930)

Dr. Hauge was born on a farm in Minnesota on September 17, 1868. His parents were natives of Norway and came to the United States in 1854. He went to school for Dentistry at the American College of Dental Surgery and began his practice in 1894 in Montana. He married Lulu Cree in 1898 and became associated with her family's livestock and ranching business in St. Paul Park, Minnesota. While in Minnesota, he served on the Board of Education and the Board of Supervisors and became a member of the Minnesota Legislature. After selling the family livestock business, Dr. Hauge and his family moved to Long Beach in 1913. During his time in Long Beach, Dr. Hauge was elected to the City Council in 1927 and was then unanimously elected as Mayor by the City Council. In 1934, Governor Frank F. Merriam appointed Dr. Hauge as Chief Deputy of the Department of Finance, where he served until 1938 when he was appointed as Supervisor of the 4th Supervisorial District. Dr. Hauge passed away on May 25, 1943 survived by 3 daughters and a son.

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Asa E. Fickling (1930 - 1933)

Asa Ellison Fickling was born in Cambridge, Illinois on July 12, 1877. He was the founder of the Fickling Lumber Company in Long Beach and was the President of the Southern California Lumber Dealers for 3 terms. The years of Fickling's administration were difficult. It was the time of the Depression and high unemployment. Then came the earthquake of March 10, 1933, which left Long Beach in ruins and gave Fickling the nickname "Earthquake Mayor." At various times in his long career, Fickling taught school, studied law, served as a justice of the peace, and was involved in more than 6 business ventures. Fickling died on November 14, 1963 survived by his wife, daughter, 3 sons, several stepchildren, and 5 grandchildren.

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Merritt E. Paddock (1933 - 1934)

Merritt Paddock was born on June 3, 1867 in Prophetstown, Illinois. He started out studying mining engineering and for 35 years followed this profession. He came to Long Beach from Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1903, when Long Beach had less than 5,000 residents. During his time in Long Beach, he was frequently called on to undertake mining investigations in Mexico and throughout the West. Mr. Paddock also worked as a supervisor on the census in 1920. For 29 years he was a member of the Elks Lodge and was an avid football fan, enjoying both the USC Trojans and Poly High School teams. He passed away in May of 1937.

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Carl Fletcher (1934 - 1936)

Carl Fletcher entered public office in 1934 when he was elected to the Long Beach City Council. His fellow Councilmembers appointed him as Mayor shortly afterward. Mr. Fletcher served three terms on the City Council up until 1941. In 1944 he was elected to the State Assembly. Carl Fletcher served as a State Assemblyman until 1951 until he resumed his office as a Long Beach City Councilmember. During his time in Long Beach he served in several different capacities. He was the editor of the Long Beach Labor News, president of the Central Labor Council for 7 years, and in 1933 was appointed as a member of the Harbor Commission. Carl Fletcher was a native of California, born in Hollister and relocating to Long Beach in 1918. He died at the age of 72, survived by his wife, stepdaughter and stepson.

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Thomas M. Eaton (1936 - 1938)

Tom Eaton, as he was called, was born on August 3, 1896, on a farm in Illinois. His youth was spent working on the farm and studying in a country school. He lived on the farm until he was 15 years old, when he began high school. He attended and graduated from Illinois Normal State University and was immediately appointed as Principal of Lincoln High School in Illinois. He held this position until World War I broke out. He immediately enlisted in the Navy and served until the end of the war. After the war, Mayor Eaton served as an accountant in the Navy Department in Providence, Rhode Island. His understanding of naval affairs flourished and continued throughout his life. Upon returning to civilian life, he moved to Indiana taking various jobs to support himself. He eventually saved enough money to invest in an oil refinery in Wilmington, California where he eventually moved with his new wife. Upon arriving in California in August 1921, Mayor Eaton found that the promise of a job with the oil refinery and his investment had disappeared. In 1925, after working more odd jobs, he bought his own car dealership, which he ran until 1935. In 1936, Eaton was elected to the City Council and then unanimously chosen as Mayor by his fellow Councilmembers.

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Clarence E. Wagner (1938 - 1939) and (1942 - 1945)

Clarence Wagner was born on September 6, 1896 in Antigo, Wisconsin. He taught high school for 2 years and then went on to study pharmacy. Upon arriving in Long Beach in 1921, he opened Wagner Drug Store on the corner of Redondo and 7th Street, which is still there today. He was elected to the City Council three times and served as Mayor twice. He also served as the President of the Los Angeles Division of the California League of Cities.

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Francis H. Gentry (1939 - 1942)

Francis Gentry was a registered civil and structural engineer who moved to Long Beach in 1917. He served on the Los Angeles County Grand Jury in 1927 and was a member of the Long Beach Civil Service Commission and the County Sanitation District Board. He was a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve and was the Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. His political platforms included efforts to protect the tidelands, curtailment of tax limits, investigation of transportation systems, and the Alamitos Bay project of the day. He also favored the expansion of recreational areas.

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Herbert E. Lewis (1945 - 1947)

A veteran of both the Spanish-American War and World War I, he was elected to the Long Beach City Council during World War II, serving from 1942 to 1947. He was Mayor during the last two years of his term. Lewis was known as a member of the "solid five," a group of councilmen that often voted as a bloc and later became the target of a successful recall election in 1947. Following the group's defeat, Lewis said he was happy to have been a member of the bloc, asserting that it was a force for progress during its five-year tenure. The special recall election apparently ended Lewis' political career because he never sought political office again. Lewis came to Long Beach in 1924 from Davenport, Iowa and was in the automobile painting business until 1928 when he moved to Denver. He eventually returned to Long Beach in 1934. Lewis, who was born in Ontario, Canada, was survived by his wife at the time of his death in 1972.

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Burton W. Chace (1947 - 1953)

Burton Chace was born in 1900 in Stanton, Nebraska. He went through the Stanton school system and eventually graduated from the University of Nebraska. He drove all the way to Long Beach in 1923 with a college friend. After a few months, Chace's father came to California and together they engaged in a lumber business. After many years and several expansions, Burton Chace became the sole owner of the Chace Lumber Company. Throughout this time, he became heavily involved in civic affairs and served on the Board of Education from 1933 to 1941. In 1938 he was elected President of the Board of Education. Chace was elected to the City Council in 1945 and reelected in 1948.

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Lyman B. Sutter (1953 - 1954)

Judge Sutter served the city as Mayor, Vice-Mayor and City Prosecutor. He was born in Burlington, Iowa, on June 14, 1906. He came to Long Beach after graduating from Monmouth College and Harvard Law School. In 1932, he was admitted to the State Bar and practiced law for seven years. He was elected to City Prosecutor, and remained until he resigned to enter the military service after war broke out. After returning to Long Beach, he resumed his private practice until 1950, when he was elected to the City Council. He succeeded Burton Chace as mayor in 1953 when Chace was appointed to the County Board of Supervisors. In 1953, Sutter decided to run for the municipal court bench when Judge Charles D. Wallace announced he would not seek re-election. Sutter won the election, and was appointed to the bench by Governor Goodwin Knight when Wallace retired before his term expired. Judge Sutter also served as President of the Long Beach Area Council of the Boy Scouts in 1956 and 1957. Judge Sutter died from cancer at the age of 57; his wife, and son survived him.

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George M. Vermillion (1954 - 1957)

George M. Vermillion started out in Long Beach in 1923 as an oil worker, he later established a chain of drugstores in the city and served prominently in civic affairs. He was a member of the Board of Education from 1941 to 1954, serving as president for two terms in that interval. He was elected to the City Council in 1954 and was appointed mayor. Mayor Vermillion had also served in other civic capacities. He was chairman of the Heart Fund Campaign in 1958 and, at one time, administered the March of Dimes Campaign. He was also president of the Long Beach Boy's Club, president of the Long Beach Area Council of the Boy Scouts in 1958 and 1959, a board member of the Children's Hospital Clinic, a member of Kiwanis and president of the Long Beach Pharmaceutical Association. Mayor Vermillion passed away at the age of 61; his death was attributed to a heart attack. He was survived by his wife, and two sons.

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Ray C. Kealer (1957 - 1960)

Mayor Kealer is the second person to serve on the City Council longer than any other member. Mayor Tom Clark served as a Councilmember from 1965 to 1996. Mayor Kealer represented the First District from 1947 to 1972. In 1954, he was the only one among nine incumbents who was re-elected. He served as mayor from 1957 - 1960. He was born in New Mexico and moved to Long Beach in 1919. As a councilman, he lobbied in Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Tidelands Quitclaim Bill, which established city and state ownership of tideland oil. He was chairman of the council's Oil and Harbor Committee for seventeen years. Mayor Kealer was also instrumental in bringing decorative drilling islands to the harbor instead of stark oil platforms. As a boy, he lived at the edge of an Indian Reservation in New Mexico and he was an avid lifelong collector of Indian artifacts. As an adult, Mayor Kealer was a great champion for the welfare and betterment of the Navajo Indians. Mayor Kealer passed away in 1978, after suffering a massive heart attack; he was 78.

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Edwin W. Wade (1960 - 1975)

Mayor Wade was elected to the City Council in 1960 and re-elected in 1963, 1966, 1969 and 1972. He was elected mayor by his council colleagues in 1960 and re-elected to that post four times, serving as the city's chief executive longer than any other person. He retired from office June 30, 1975. Mayor Wade was born in Jamestown, N.D. He lived in California since 1908 and moved to Long Beach in 1933. He was active in Masonic organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, the Navy League, Elks Lodge 888 and numerous other local organizations. Mayor Wade died at the age of 72. He served as Mayor for 15 years.

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Thomas J. Clark (1975 - 1980 & 1982 - 1984)

Mayor Clark holds the title for longest-serving councilman in Long Beach history. He served on the City Council from 1965 to 1996. He rode in on the Queen Mary when it arrived in Long Beach in 1967. He sponsored legislation that led construction of the Main Library and El Dorado Park. Since 1966, Mayor Clark represented the Fourth District for eight consecutive terms. Prior to the referendum, which resulted in the election of a full-time mayor, Tom Clark was elected by his fellow Councilmembers to the position of mayor three times - from 1975 to 1978, 1978 to 1980 and 1982 to 1984. His guidance was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the revitalization and redevelopment that has been taken place in Downtown Long Beach.

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Eunice Sato (1980 - 1982)

Mayor Sato made history when she was elected Mayor in 1980. She was the first woman ever elected as a Long Beach Mayor. Being first elected to the City Council in 1975 as the 7th district representative, she served on the City Council for a total of eleven and a half years. Mayor Sato has been in Long Beach since 1956, when she moved here with her husband Thomas and her three children: Daniel, Douglas and Charlotte. Before being elected to the City Council, Mayor Sato was active in many volunteer programs for 17 years. Before her life as a public official, she worked with the PTA, the Council of Churches, United Way, the Red Cross, St. Mary's Hospital, Memorial Hospital, and at least twenty-six other community organizations.

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Ernie Kell (1984 - 1994)

Mayor Kell is originally from North Dakota. He lived in North Dakota until the age of 15. In 1943, the Kell family moved to Wilmington, California. After graduation from high school, Mayor Kell decided to seek his fortune and discover the world. He sailed on merchant ships and had sailed the world by the time he was 19. In 1950, Mayor Kell was drafted into the Army. He spent nine months in Korea with the 151st Combat Engineers in the Korean combat zone. After returning to the U.S., he returned to school while working full time at U.S. Steel. He opened a drafting company in 1958. The company, Western Detailing, grew and eventually the operation was moved to Orange County. In 1971 Mayor Kell sold his business and obtained his contractor's license. Mayor Ernie Kell served as a councilman for thirteen years. He was the first person to serve as a full-time Mayor since 1908. Mayor Kell represented the 5th District since being elected in 1975. His wife, Jackie served as the council representative of the 5th District from 1998 through 2006. Mayor Kell was appointed mayor on July 19,1988, and left office in 1994.

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Beverly O'Neill (1994 - 2006)

Mayor Beverly O'Neill is Long Beach's only three-term, citywide elected Mayor. Initially elected in 1994, she was re-elected in 1998 with almost 80% of the vote, and was re-elected to a third term as a write-in candidate, the nation's only large city Mayor to accomplish such an historic feat. Mayor O'Neill was a major force in changing the Long Beach economy into a diversified mix of international trade, tourism, emerging technologies, and expanding retail. A product of the Long Beach public school system, starting with the Long Beach Day Nursery up to her graduation from California State University, Long Beach, Dr. O'Neill pursued her post-graduate studies at the University of Vienna, and received her doctorate from the University of Southern California. Prior to becoming mayor, Dr. O'Neill spent a 31-year career at Long Beach City College beginning as a music instructor and women's advisor. In the succeeding years she advanced to Campus Dean, Dean of Student Affairs, Vice President of Student Services and spent her last five years as Superintendent-President.

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Bob Foster (2006 - 2014)

Mayor Bob Foster is a widely-respected business and community leader who was elected as the 27th mayor of Long Beach in June, 2006. He was re-elected for a second term in June 2010. Mayor Foster served as president of Southern California Edison before his retirement in 2006 after more than 20 years with the company. As an Edison executive, Mayor Foster led California's largest electric company through the 1999 energy crisis. During Mayor Foster's tenure, Edison developed the largest renewable, clean energy programs (solar, geothermal, biomass and wind) in the United States. Mayor Foster began his career in public service as a staffer in the California State Senate and California Energy Commission where he established statewide energy efficiency standards that are still enforced today. He was appointed as the Environmental Committee chair in 2008, elected to the Advisory Board in 2009 and elected to the Board of Trustees in 2010 for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Mayor Foster to the Board of Governors for the California Independent Systems Operators (ISO) in 2010. Mayor Foster is a graduate of San Jose State University in public administration. Prior to his election as mayor, he served as a trustee to the California State University system and remains active in a number of community and public policy organizations. Mayor Foster and his wife, Nancy, have been married for 42 years and have two grown sons and three grandchildren. The Mayor and Mrs. Foster work to support a variety of community organizations.

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