Alex Fiore, a 30-year Thousand Oaks City Council member whose service earned him the title "mayor emeritus," died Thursday night at Los Robles Regional Medical Center. He was 75.
One of the original council members after Thousand Oaks became a city in 1964, Fiore was a driving force behind construction of the Civic Arts Plaza, helped secure thousands of acres in open space and is credited with helping to maintain the city's fiscal health over three decades.
"His handprint is everywhere in this city," City Manager MaryJane Lazz said. "Our residents have him to thank for the beauty of this community."
Fiore was surrounded by friends and family members when he died of complications stemming from lymphoma, a disease he struggled with for several years. He is survived by his wife, Katy, a daughter, two sons and several grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Friends and colleagues remembered Fiore as a quick-witted, good-humored man who had unparalleled energy and passion for the community.
"I consider him to be a giant of this community," said Ventura County Board of Supervisors Chairman Frank Schillo, who served on the council with Fiore for 10 years. Schillo said he will adjourn the board's meeting next week in Fiore's memory.
"Alex always had the people of the community at heart, no matter what he did," he said.
One example was Fiore's Saturday meetings with the public that began in 1971 at Janss Marketplace, then known as Conejo Village Mall. Every week, he would set up a table and chair and listen to residents' complaints and ideas.
Councilman Andy Fox, who came onto the panel in 1994, the year Fiore retired, said the former mayor was a mentor. He served as the ultimate example of what a public servant should be, Fox said.
"Whether you agreed with Alex or not--whether you voted for him or not--you had to appreciate the rationale and thought process behind his decisions," he said.
Fiore worked as a vice president and controller of finance and administration of Rockwell International's Rocketdyne Corp. until 1984, when he retired.
He ran for City Council during the first elections in 1964 and was among the original leaders to push for the city's incorporation. He spent $37 on his campaign.
"That's just the kind of person he was," said Chuck Cohen, a developer who served on the council with Fiore for five years. "He was peerless as far as being able to come up with solutions to civic problems. I'd walk into a meeting fearful of a very difficult issue, and Alex would walk in and be able to solve it in about 10 minutes."
Fiore had many accomplishments.
He wrote numerous ordinances, including the city's tight restrictions on removing oak trees and building on ridgelines. He prevented Thousand Oaks from imposing a municipal property tax and voted to fund dozens of parks and ball fields. He also pushed for the building of the city's teen center and a low-income housing project on Hillcrest Drive, both of which were named after him.
Fiore helped negotiate deals for thousands of acres in open space that surround the city, most notably the acquisition of the Wildwood Mesa for a regional park.
But like any politician in Thousand Oaks, Fiore also weathered criticism. His crusade for a $64-million city hall and regional performing arts center was at times unpopular, sparking calls for his ouster.
Former Councilwoman Judy Lazar said she remembers many lively meetings in which Fiore sparred with fellow council members and his critics.
"Above all, Alex was funny, fun, honest and pulled no punches," she said. "He just told it like it was."
In his time on the council, Fiore attended 1,400 meetings and logged more than 25,000 hours on city business, according to city officials. His colleagues voted him in as mayor six times. When he left in 1994 he was named "mayor emeritus," an honor bestowed on no other council member.
"He had a passion and a vision to see what Thousand Oaks would and could be in the years ahead," said Larry Horner, who worked as a council member alongside Fiore for 17 years. "He became actively involved and enjoyed it so much, I think it just became a part of him."