Paul J. Lunardi

More Information

  • Born: Sept. 3, 1921
    Died: Jan. 11, 2013
    Survived by: Daughter, Nancy of Roseville; stepdaughters, Carol Kennedy and Jan Bedrosian, both of Sacramento; stepson, Richard Kennedy of Sacramento; 11 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild
    Services: None
    Remembrances: Donations in memory of Mr. Lunardi may be made to the Salvation Army.

Obituary: Roseville's Paul Lunardi served as state lawmaker, community builder

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 - 8:31 am

Paul J. Lunardi, a veteran Roseville political figure who was the city's youngest mayor at 32 and represented Placer County in the California Legislature, died Friday at 91.

He had pneumonia and congestive heart problems, said his daughter, Nancy.

Mr. Lunardi made his mark in Roseville as an effective public servant and popular native son whose name appears prominently on a public park and street, and in the city's centennial history book. He compiled a record of important accomplishments as a local and state politician when the Sacramento suburb was still a small railroad community.

He began in 1950, when he was elected to the Roseville City Council. In 1954, he won the highest vote percentage in the city's history to become its youngest mayor ever.

Laying groundwork for the city's growth, he led efforts to open its first hospital, create a municipal fire department and establish a council-manager form of government. He was instrumental in securing cheap power from the Central Valley Project and updating the street lighting system.

"Paul Lunardi's service and commitment to Roseville and to the state provided a strong foundation for the success the city and region enjoy today," Mayor Susan Rohan said Monday in a written statement.

In 1958, Mr. Lunardi was elected as a Democrat to the California Assembly and represented 11 mountainous counties in the 6th District for three terms. He won a special state Senate election in 1963 to serve Nevada, Placer and Sierra Counties in the 11th District.

He secured millions of dollars in loans for water and sewer projects in rural counties. He wrote legislation creating California's system of driver's licenses based on vehicle categories, which became a model for other states.

He sponsored a bill establishing the Lake Tahoe Joint Study Commission composed of California and Nevada officials to oversee development around the lake. He won legislation designating the ghost town of Bodie as a state park and introduced the first bill to assess farmland at lower tax rates – a forerunner of the landmark Williamson Act.

Mr. Lunardi was a regular for many years at the Tan-Tan, a popular Capitol tavern owned by his brother Dominic. He left the Legislature in 1966 and spent 28 years as a lobbyist, mostly for the Wine Institute. He retired in 1994.

Born in Roseville in 1921, Paul John Lunardi was the youngest of four children raised by Italian immigrants. He graduated from Roseville Union High School and fought with amphibious forces in the Solomon Islands during World War II. He owned a Texaco gas station in Roseville for many years.

He married in 1948 and had two daughters with the former Geraldine F. Shirley, who died in 1973. He was married for 37 years to his second wife, the former Lou Jones, who died in 2010. He also was predeceased by a daughter from his first marriage, Yvonne Sena.

Mr. Lunardi's public service was recalled Monday at the Capitol, where he "distinguished himself here at an earlier time serving with some of the legends of the house," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. "He was an eloquent voice for rural California, and he always revered the institution."

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