Gus Ayer – Someone Everyone Loved, Gone too Soon


Gus loved the fight, he loved to mix it up but not from the dais and even though he served as Mayor of Fountain Valley and on the City Council he really loved the work he did behind the scenes.

I met Gus in 2008 when my husband Gary ran for State Senate.  He and Joe Shaw were one of the first people to support him and they’ve been loyal friends ever since.  Gus fought for us, he fought for me.  He was just always there for me when I needed an ear.  That was Gus.

And he never failed to make me laugh.  I always liked making him laugh as well.  I made it my goal to do so.  It made me feel like I accomplished something because well, Gus was smart, he was sharp, he was smarter than the average bear.

Gus was just a good man.  He was good through and through.  I can’t say enough how honored I was to know him and call him my friend.  I shared much in common with him from some strengths to some weaknesses and he always made me feel better for both of those.  And he always encouraged me to do more and be better.  He supported my writing, not just with his words, but by helping create a blog so I would have somewhere to write.

That was Gus.  He went all in.  And he did this for so many.   Gus was about his family, he was about taking care of others and taking care of the earth.  He was thinking of everyone but himself and he just exuded goodness though he could have such a mean streak when it came to his sense of humor, it’s why I loved him so much, nothing was sacred.  But when it mattered, when it counted, he was there and you knew it.

I can’t imagine not having Gus in our lives.  So many depended upon him to help fight those good fights.  To be there for them.  To be an ear to listen to, someone to go on a hike with to fight their very worthy battle.

It’s a void that will be so difficult to fill, not just a void in my heart, but in our collective organizing ability.  It will just make everything harder to do.

I spoke to him just a couple of days ago, he called to see how I was doing.  He asked if we could go to lunch and I had to decline.  I wish I had gone.  I could have hugged him one more time.  I could have spent some more time with him.

We went to Netroots Nation together in 2010, if it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have gone at all.  I will cherish that always.

Gus was like a Dad to me.  There will never be enough time with Gus.

I just don’t think I can do justice for Gus’s passing.   My deepest condolences to his family and his long list of friends.

From Joe Shaw:


This is a significant loss for progressives and environmentalists in Orange County.


Just to let you know what Gus worked on in the 2012 campaign cycle:

Sandy Genis elected to the Costa Mesa City Council

Jill Hardy elected to the Huntington Beach City Council

Diana Carey elected to the Westminster City Council

Helped to defeat Measure Z in Huntington Beach

Worked on the anti-Charter initiative in Costa Mesa

Worked on saving Coyote Hills in Fullerton and won at the ballot even though outspent 10-1.

Worked on defeating an anti-open space initiative in Orange and won!

Gus’s last project was defeating the Poseidon desalination project in Huntington Beach and we will be carrying on that fight now with a vengeance and in Gus’ memory.

  22 comments for “Gus Ayer – Someone Everyone Loved, Gone too Soon

  1. Dan Chmielewski
    February 13, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Thank you Heather. This is a wonderful tribute to Gus

    • February 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      It was my honor Dan. I pray I don’t have to write something like this again for a very long time.

    • Stephanie
      February 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      Yes, Heather, thanks for those wonderful words for a talented man

  2. Joe Shaw
    February 13, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Gus Ayer was a Bad Ass Political Consultant.

    No one works the voter lists like he did and I’m not even sure anyone else could figure out what it was he did with numbers. Best micro-targeting around and hit to just the right voters at just the right time. That’s how you win.

    No other Democratic consultant has his winning track record in 2010/2012 seasons. He was brilliant at what he did.

    And he did it maintaining the most genial demeanor (almost all the time).

    He was our secret weapon. Hopefully he taught us enough to carry on his legacy of progressive politics in Orange County.

  3. February 14, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Not everyone loved Gus. Some people hated Gus — because he was a danger to their political interests. Take a look at Joe’s list of Gus’s activities in his last election cycle. He was willing to make enemies, if necessary, in a good cause. That was a big part of his power.

    It will take a whole platoon of us to even partially replace him. That’s what we’ll have to do, though. His legacy demands it of us.

    • February 14, 2013 at 9:24 am

      They may not have liked him for his political work, but I meant that he was likable for his personality, he was just one of those people that despite the fact he could drive you crazy you couldn’t help but love him. And so, I chose to see it that way.

      • February 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

        Oh, I’m not really complaining about your choice of words. You’re right about his personality. I meant “hated” — as with Lincoln and FDR — as a compliment. He stirred up trouble and made waves — especially when it came to keeping trouble out of the waves off of OC!

  4. February 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm
    • Dan Chmielewski
      February 15, 2013 at 8:53 am

      hurting for traffic Vern?

      • February 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

        huh? No, smart-aleck. People are clicking the hell out of my Gus Obit. This is just me dialoguing with Heather on our contrasting/complementing Gus memories. Did YOU ever meet him?

        • Dan Chmielewski
          February 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

          I have met Gus and you know how I feel about Blog Whoring.

          • February 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

            Well, in response to how much I care about what you obnoxiously, offensively, and nonsensically call blog-“whoring,” I will once again link to the now-improved, with new pictures and Graeter’s Ice Cream, Mother of All Gus Ayer Tributes:


            And you did NOT know him.

            • February 16, 2013 at 8:56 pm

              Did you guys really have to do this? It makes me want to cry and I’m not exaggerating, it’s why Gus created the OC Progressive. Did I comment and link what I wrote on your piece Vern? Ultimately, it’s about GUS, not any of us. All I can say is I miss him so much already and he’d be the guy I’d call and say, can you believe what they did to my post? I can’t now.

              • February 16, 2013 at 11:13 pm

                I apologize Heather I view Vern’s links to be a distraction to the tribute you paid to Gus.

            • February 16, 2013 at 11:11 pm

              I didn’t know him Vern. Which is why we invited Heather to write this post. I did meet him. But I am in no way close to him. Heather honored his memory in a way I couldn’t. Do not blog whore your posts over here again. Please.

            • February 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

              Fine. I’ve just never understood what’s so offensive – let alone suggestive of PROSTITUTION – about linking to one’s one comments on the same subject. But

              GO GUS! Everybody try Graeter’s Ice Cream! And mostly, make sure you join in his last crusade against Poseidon desalination – click here:

              Luv ya Heather

              • February 20, 2013 at 8:07 pm

                You have an RSS feed already on this blog with a link to your post on your excellent story about Gus so there is no real need to promote or otherwise call attention to something already promoted on this site. If you want to continue promoting posts on your blog in the comments section of this one, I’m happy to remove the feed to the Orange Juice Blog and replace it with another blog that gets it.

  5. Art Munguia
    February 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I remember when he lost his own race as FV CouncilI and I asked him how he felt about it and his only concern was his loss of Debbies race. He litterly only spent about last 3 days on his own campaign(a simple 2 color mailer). He only cared about the “greater” work not his own position. I still have yet to witness such a selfless act in this business. I wish I had spent more time with him and returned more of his calls and emails as he was constantly pushing the agenda forward. Most of all he was always so happy to see you and had a laugh to share. Gus is a reminder of all we take for granted with the souls in our lives. God bless Gus and his family.

  6. Sherri Loveland
    February 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I met Gus in 2010, when I ran for Tustin city council. Without even asking, he jumped right in and helped me with my campaign, dialing down voter lists for me, checking in and offering advise. I’m so glad that we remained friends. How could we not? We both have a passion for the environment and progressive politics.

    I just spoke to him Monday about Poseidon. You are all right…. We have to work harder now, in Gus’ memory.

    Joe, whatever I can do to help with the No Water Deal, let me know! Gus also taught me how to use NationBuilder and now I maintain two websites in their platform. I’m happy to help with that if needed. We need to see this through!

  7. February 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Before he ran for City Council, before he ran for School Board, before he fought for all of the causes listed above, he fought against the disaster that would have been El Toro International Airport. Those of us who fought that fight were glad he was on our side.

    Thanks, Gus. Rest in peace.

  8. February 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Well, I gotta agree with Greg: Gus was a prickly customer, he was NOT nice to people he didn’t like, and there were a LOT of people he didn’t like (including in the Democratic Party); and I don’t blame them for not-liking him back. So as much as I appreciate Heather and her article, the title just doesn’t work for me.

    Now Heather – THAT’S a person everyone loves!

Comments are closed.