An avid cyclist with a heart for service to his community, Ronald Bates was a longtime fixture in the Los Alamitos community.
Bates died Sept. 6 at the age of 76. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; two daughters, Kimberly Bates Pierce and Andrea Morgan Bates; and two grandchildren.
“Ron loved his city and served with integrity and passion. As an outstanding public servant with over five decades of experience as both an elected official and city management, he led by example and mentored so many, leaving a legacy for generations to come,” Mayor Shelley Hasselbrink said.
Bates was a retired city manager who had served in Buena Park, La Habra Heights, Pico Rivera, and South Gate. He taught public finance and public works administration at Cal State Long Beach and mentored several students at Cal State Los Angeles, his alma mater, through a program that paired them with city managers in Southern California.
He served on the Los Alamitos City Council from 1988 to 2004, coming back to represent District 2 in 2020.
“Ron is known not just for thinking of ideas — although he is known for that — but he just monitors the heck out of things,” Marilyn Bates, his wife of more than 50 years, said. “That’s one of his attributes.”
Bates was a stalwart advocate for the youth in Southern California, particularly in Los Alamitos and Pico Rivera, where he grew up.
Along with his wife, Bates made sizable donations to the Youth Center in Los Alamitos, allowing the nonprofit to plan a new reading room, equipped with books, for kids to access, said Chris Forehan, a longtime family friend of the Bates. The couple also established a scholarship foundation for students who live in Pico Rivera.
Bates was the embodiment of the notion that what makes a thriving community is “a great place to live, to work, and to go to school,” Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Andrew Pulver said. He pressed for community engagement and involvement, attended countless events, and showed up to meetings between officials.
“He’s just been an icon in this community for so long. He’s been a huge advocate for the city of Los Alamitos, for the schools, the businesses, and the community in general. ” Pulver said. “He is a champion of public education, as well, and was really investing in our youth. He was always trying to connect the community.”
Bates pushed for more coordination between the Los Alamitos Unified School District, the city, and law enforcement to ensure students were safe on campus, particularly after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas earlier this year.
“Are we doing as much as we can?” Bates challenged school and city officials, Forehan, a member of the Los Alamitos Board of Education, recalled.
Bates was Forehan’s “extra set of eyes,” he said. “When issues came up that affected the school district, he got right with me and said, ‘We need to think about this.’”
Bates was instrumental in forging a partnership with the Joint Forces Training Base, opening up its Olympic-size pool to the public. It’s where the U.S. women’s water polo team, who won their third straight Olympic gold medal last year, practice.
Bates, too, was a fierce competitor. He contended in about 30 marathons and enjoyed swimming, running, skiing and cycling. He was a member of the Lightning Velo cycling club.
Troy Edgar, who has lived next door to the Bates family for more than 20 years and frequently cycled along the coast with Bates, said the late councilman was always encouraging. Bates helped Edgar with his own run for City Council, as well as with his U.S. Senate confirmation process when he joined the Trump administration as a senior official.
“This guy is pretty incredible,” Edgar, a former Los Alamitos mayor, said. “If you look at his career, not only his public service but his professional service, he knows all sides. He knows how to be a good elected official and how to be a good city staff member. With that combination, he could really get a lot of stuff done.”
Since her husband’s death, Marilyn Bates said she’s heard from countless people who said he made them smarter.
“I do think he was one of the brightest people I have ever known,” she said. “His ability to think thoroughly, but also quickly, and pretty much not give up until there were solutions that were able to be agreed upon — that’s a theme that’s come out of this.”
“When I hear that people view Ron as very bright and as a great teacher, it warms my heart,” Marilyn Bates, who has worked with various school districts around the country, said.
Bates was recognized earlier this year as a distinguished alumnus of Cal State Los Angeles. He had served as a board president for the League of California Cities and is a former assistant city manager for Anaheim, where he helped bring the Arrowhead Pond, now the Honda Center, to fruition in 1993.
“Mr. Bates was a tireless champion for the Los Alamitos community and someone that never missed an opportunity to lend his support to others,” City Manager Chet Simmons said. “Given the countless hours of service that Ron gave to our city and the surrounding communities, I know that we are not alone in our grief.
“He was a great partner and mentor,” Simmons said.
Congresswoman Michelle Steel said Bates acted as a “teacher and mentor for decades, Councilman Ron Bates left a lasting impact on our community. My thoughts are with his family in the days to come, and I’m grateful for his commitment to Orange County families.”
A celebration of life will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 23 at the Navy Golf Course, 5660 Orangewood Ave. in Cypress. Those who wish to send flowers can do so for the event, or make a contribution to a cause of their choice in Ron Bates’ name, Marilyn Bates said.
City Council members will hold a special meeting on Sept. 26 to decide if they will hold a special election (which can be costly), appoint someone to fill the remainder of Bates’s term, or leave it empty until the term is up in two years.