The June 7 election is to grab three seats on La Verne City Council, with only two incumbent running, guaranteeing a shakeup on the podium.
A total of seven candidates are in the fray. The 2022 election represents the first time since the city-large’s transition to council from district-based voting. The seat of the mayor shall be appointed and rotated among the members of the council on an annual basis.
The District 1 race pits Muir Davis against former council member Steve Johnson. In District 4, Tim Hepburn, currently the mayor, Estella V. Maldonado and Richard are facing Gill, who ran for a seat in 2020. District 3 voters will choose between first-time candidate Joe Gabaldon and Meshal “Kash” Kashifalghita, who contested the election. Congress in 2020 to replace Robin Carder, a council member elected in 2009, who will retire after the election results are certified.
Top issues for candidates include bringing back an elected mayor from council, public safety, the upcoming L Line light rail and future revenue opportunities.
Here’s a closer look at the race:
Serving as a council member since 2017, Davis, 61, is an advocate for road improvement and the long-term sustainability of the city’s finances. With the L line to come, Davis said he sees potential for growth but wants to protect its small-town charm.
“I want to maintain that uniqueness of living that is due in large part to the neighborliness of our residents,” Davis said in a phone interview. “But there’s opportunity here too, I want to make sure our city is inviting and our streets are inviting people to walk on them.”
Davis also sees a new revenue opportunity in the fledgling public Bank of Pomona Valley. While still in its early stages, Davis said he is engaged in a study group to establish a public bank that would serve the cities of La Verne, Pomona, Clermont and San Dimas.
Meanwhile, his stance on supporting the city’s transition to a rotating mayor hasn’t changed. He said that rotating the work among the representatives elected by each district ensures balance in the leadership.
Johnson, 60, who is self-employed in the insurance sector, joined the race to reverse recent changes in city elections.
Johnson, who served on the council from 2003 to 2011, stepped down after his vote on the expansion of La Verne University went to trial, an action that had come under fire as a potential conflict of interest. Johnson was found not guilty.
Now, Johnson said, he is bidding to return to council to “correct this mistake” made by officials last year.
“I wasn’t looking to run for office this time, but the issue is so big that I was forced to run for office again,” Johnson said. “The timing feels right.”
Referring to the 1972 election where La Verne voters approved a ballot to elect their mayor every two years, Johnson said he would work to “re-establish the voice of the people”.
Kashifalghita, 46, a special operations agent for the state of California, grew up in La Verne and began his career as a police cadet in 1995. He credits her upbringing and said that it makes her the right candidate to lead the district. ,
Kashifalghita, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, said he would focus on public safety if elected. His goal is to stem the rise in homeless people he says could reach La Verne as a result of the opening of the L line in 2025.
“We have to have a public safety professional who understands what it is like to fight crime, violence and homelessness. We don’t have it. We don’t currently have that. And that is my priority,” he said.
He also intends to work with Los Angeles County to convert Camp Paige and Efflerbaugh, juvenile detention facilities, into a fire camp for incarcerated individuals.
Public safety is also a top priority for 54-year-old Gabaldon, chief operating officer of a coding curriculum company that works with schools across the country. A supporter of efforts to recall LA County District Attorney George Gascon, Gabaldon also helped lead the opposition to the county’s plan to bring serious juvenile offenders to La Verne.
A regular fixture at city council meetings, Gabaldon seeks to use his financial and technical background to advance the city, he said. He said that most of the technology in the city has become obsolete.
“I think technology is a huge area of opportunity, because that’s where we are now,” Gabaldon said. “We have to get ahead of the game for the next iteration of La Verne.”
Both candidates say they support a larger mayor, and will take action to reverse the council’s decision to rotate the job.
For 65-year-old Hepburn, who was elected mayor in March 2020 and has been on council for seven years, there is still more work to do. With the upcoming L Line expansion, Hepburn said the city is ready to see change, but he wants residents to provide their input along the way.
Hepburn said, “The biggest thing is transparency and open governance to ensure that residents are well represented in our community and made aware of any decisions affecting them in any way, shape or form.” goes.”
He points to his leadership during the start of the coronavirus pandemic – keeping essential businesses open and making sure residents shop locally – as one of his proudest achievements. Hepburn also cited his involvement in the defeat of plans to bring high-end juvenile offenders to La Verne.
He was a staunch supporter of the city retaining a large mayor, voting against the move to make work a rotating gig. Hepburn said many residents were not aware of the city’s transition to district-based elections, a communication problem he seeks to address.
Gill, 57, also supports giving the mayor’s seat back to voters. Gill, a videographer who tapes council meetings, said he is rushing to “right the wrong”.
In addition, if elected, he would prompt the city to undergo a forensic audit to determine how resident’s dollars are being used.
“I just want to understand where all the money is going. The city has said they did an audit, but I want a real real cleanup of everything,” Gill said.
Maldonado, 55, is running for political office for the first time, the security and cyber risk program manager at Delta Dental. A single parent of two sons, one in the Air Force and one going to college, she has lived in La Verne for 23 years.
But Maldonado’s experience managing large projects and working with tech companies, he said, gives him “the right experience La Verne needs.”
She said residents’ concerns about a potential influx of homeless individuals in the coming years are valid, and she wants to improve collaboration between the city and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA.
“The city is about to go into a growth spurt and I think some status quo decision-making management styles may not serve the city well,” Maldonado said. “We need to be more proactive.”