Langerveld: Business owner, builder, baseball team owner, Havasu mayor
A conversation with former Mayor Chuck Langerveld is as energetic and varied as his resume. At the mention of any topic related to Lake Havasu City, he launches into a story until he gets to a person’s name — which he spells out — then keeps right on going.
Langerveld’s resume includes titles such as insurance agent, realtor, builder, businessman, baseball team owner, councilman and Havasu mayor.
“I ran for council because I felt the city should invest more in recreational facilities. I had two boys, and young people had little entertainment,” he explained. “I voted against the budget four years in a row—nobody had ever done that before—there wasn’t any money in those budgets for a parks and recreation department.”
In his two-year run as mayor from 1990-1992, Langerveld stayed true to his principles and accomplished much of what he set out to do. Under his leadership, Rotary Park and the Aquatic Center were built, and the police department was finished and dedicated.
Langerveld stood his ground against those who thought creating an indoor swimming facility was a waste of money. He believed in his vision that a growing Havasu community needed a modern indoor facility to provide swimming instruction and family pool activities for all ages.
He and his team were then criticized for building the Aquatic Center with a Canadian contractor. “Who would know better how to build an indoor swimming facility than the Canadians?” he said with a big grin.
He had a hand in refurbishing Jack Hardie, the city’s oldest neighborhood park, which was named after the former editor of the Lake Havasu City Herald. Langerveld said the editor was a nice guy, knew everyone in town and was very personable.
The mayor was recalled for a single issue — building codes. He wanted codes enforced, not changed. Nevertheless, an off the cuff remark was published in the paper, and RV owners pushed the narrative that Langerveld was against residents keeping RVs in their yards. That wasn’t true. However, he was unable to overcome that perception in the recall campaign.
That off the cuff remark proved costly. Janet, his wife and partner of 58 years, is as discreet as her husband is outspoken. Chuck on the other hand, will speak his mind. He doesn’t care what people think of him personally, as long as he’s fighting for the issues he believes will benefit Havasu.
He was a realtor in Michigan when he saw a fundraising program called, “Barry Goldwater’s Arizona.”
“I said to Janet, ‘We’ve got to go to Arizona.’ The next day I got a postcard in the mail at my office inviting me for a free flight to Lake Havasu.”
He bought a residential lot in 1968 and then a commercial property, eventually building what is now called the Hodel Building at 2079 McCulloch Blvd. Next, he created the first structure in the city with an elevator, the Gateway Building, which is at the corner of McCulloch and Smoketree.
He was there when the London Bridge was dedicated and saw something he’ll never forget. “The grass from the sod farm was brought in around the English Village to improve its appearance. The grass turned brown, so Charlie Burchett painted it green. McCulloch always wore either white bucks or saddle shoes. “That day he wore the white bucks, and they turned a glowing green.”
Chuck has a long history of engaging in community events and giving back to his country. Dressing up like a monk, Chuck won the costume contest at the first two London Bridge Days in 1972 and 1973. He is a member of the Lake Havasu City Rotary Club and was the first non-charter member of the London Bridge Rotary. He is an Army veteran who served in Korea.
Chuck and Janet ran Havasu Home Health Care from 1992-1996 and had 59 employees when he retired, although their favorite business was owning the Helena Gold Sox, a minor league baseball team. His accountant, Frank Masden, talked him into it, saying the other owners were “running out” of money.
“It was a terrible investment,” Chuck said. “But the best fun I ever had in my life. It wasn’t so bad spending four summers in Helena, Montana either.” He owned the team from 1984-1988 and said he could give away the tickets. “You make your money on the advertising and concessions. We sold a lot of beer!”
Dr. Don Nelson and his family moved to the city in 1970, about the same time that Chuck and Janet came with sons Craig and Chris.
The two families became close and spent a lot of time traveling together.
“Chuck is an extremely colorful guy and very outspoken,” Nelson said. “He speaks his mind, even if it’s to his own detriment as it often is. He’s a good Christian, and I always call upon him when a prayer is needed at a gathering.”
Nelson said when his friend was the mayor, Chuck got the idea to promote Havasu as a vacation destination by having a picture taken of him in a bathing suit sitting in the water at the Nautical Inn beach with several young ladies. The image of the old man sitting in water with scantily clad pretty girls ignited a firestorm. The picture landed on the front page of the LA Times and gave the impression that Havasu was a party place where anything goes.
“Man, did he take a lot of heat for that,” Nelson said with a laugh. “He took the posture, ‘I’m going to promote the city!’”
Janet said her husband has always been a good family man. “One day I was yelling at Chuck for something, and our five-year old said, ‘Leave him alone. He’s a good dad!’” She added that he is an entrepreneur and very intelligent. “If you are going to play Trivial Pursuit, make sure you’re on Chuck’s side.”
While he understands the reasons for the “Main Street” signs on McCulloch, Chuck hopes the street will keep its original name. “McCulloch could have put his name on many things in the city, yet he only named the boulevard after himself.”
He said the founder was shy, quiet and unassuming. “He was a genius. The man was good to us. If we needed land for a park or a roadway, he would give it to us. He was very generous.”
The 83-year old former mayor thinks Cal Sheehy is a great guy. “I hope he does well. When it comes to financial management, Mark Nexen was the best mayor we ever had.”
Chuck and another former mayor Harvey Jackson have had coffee together at local restaurants every morning since 1976. “We’re both political junkies,” Langerveld explained.
“We wouldn’t have the parks and recreational facilities like we do now if it wasn’t for Chuck,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t get a lot of credit for that.”
Chuck doesn’t sound like a man looking for any credit. Summarizing his feelings for the city, he said even if he went broke and had to borrow money to leave, “I will consider it a privilege to have lived here.”