Julius Acevez, 100 civic-minded La Mesa mayor:- Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Julius Acevez never wanted the spotlight, preferring to leave it to those around him.
But the former mayor of La Mesa still became an effective leader.
"He was quiet and never wanted to be the center of attention," said his nephew, Lalo Aceves. "But he knew how to get things done. That was his strength. He was very shrewd and sharp-minded."
Mr. Acevez, who served as La Mesa's mayor from 1958 to 1960, died Sunday of congestive heart and renal failure at Grossmont Gardens in La Mesa. He was 100.
Mr. Acevez was born in Hermosillo, Mexico, on April 30, 1907, and moved with his family to Nogales, Ariz., when he was 5.
He grew up in Calexico and moved to San Diego in 1933.
He moved to La Mesa in 1948 when he became the manager and part-owner of the Frazee Paint store there and immediately immersed himself in civic affairs. He was appointed to the city's Planning Commission in 1953 and three years later was appointed to a vacant City Council seat.
In 1958, Mr. Acevez was chosen mayor of La Mesa by members of the City Council, in a time before citizens elected the mayor.
"He was the consummate example of a citizen who felt there was an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the community," current La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid said. "He was what I call a self-starter who wanted to be involved in how the community was run."
Even though he had been appointed to the council and chosen mayor by the members of the council, Mr. Acevez championed initiatives to have the city's mayor elected by a popular vote, which began in 1960.
Mr. Acevez was proud of his tenure as mayor. He often mentioned to people that the size of the city increased from 15,000 when he moved there to 30,000 by the end of his mayoral term.
Today, the city's population is about 56,000.
"He felt very good in his mayoral growth of La Mesa," his nephew said. "I used to drive him around, and he would point to some property that he had bought for the city that is now covered with houses. He had tremendous foresight in what the city would look like years later."
His nephew said that Mr. Acevez's understated style made him good at building consensus and getting people mobilized into teams.
"He was a politician but not like the usual politician," Aceves said.
Madrid said Mr. Acevez was an anomaly as a Latino mayor of a California city in the 1950s.
"He was successful because of who he was, not because of who he knew," Madrid said. "I like to say one of the traits of a leader is that they seek opportunities and don't wait for opportunities to come to them. That's exactly what he did."
In addition to his political career, Mr. Acevez had a long history of involvement in civic-minded service organizations.
At age 12, he was a member of a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the Calexico Rotary Club.
Later in his life, Mr. Acevez became a dedicated member of the Rotary and also joined the La Mesa Masonic Lodge, United Commercial Travelers fraternal group, the Elks Club and the Al Bahr Shrine.
He began working for Frazee Paint in 1936, and except for two years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he worked for Frazee until his retirement in 1985.
Mr. Acevez was preceded in death by two wives. His survivors include several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Friday at Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego. Entombment will follow in a mausoleum.
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