Mark McDermott

Seven candidates compete for two seats on City Council

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by Mark McDermott

Seven candidates have filed papers to compete for two City Council seats in the March 5 Election. Among the candidates are two former councilmembers, one previously unsuccessful council candidate, and four political newcomers.

The two incumbents currently holding those seats, Councilwoman Amy Howorth and Councilman David Lesser, are termed out. The candidates running to fill their vacancies are Mark Burton, Joe Franklin, Suzanne Hadley, Wayne Powell, Hildy Stern, Joseph Ungoco, and Brian Withers.

Burton, 65, served on the council from 2013 to 2017, when he ran unsuccessfully for reelection. He worked 32 years for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, retiring in 2012 as a senior assistant city attorney. He is currently a licensed real estate agent with 3 Leaf Realty.

In his candidate statement, Burton identified public safety as his top priority, writing that he supports hiring more police officers for neighborhood patrol, assigning of full-time officers to Mira Costa High School and Manhattan Beach Middle School, and expanding MBPD’s license plate reading system.

“During my time on City Council, I earned a reputation for listening to and fighting for the needs of our residents, grassroots community groups and local business owners to keep Manhattan Beach the special place that it is,” Burton wrote. “That’s what I have done, and that’s what I will do.”

Franklin, 63, is a political newcomer but a 34-year resident of Manhattan Beach. He comes from a business background that includes positions with AT&T, NEC, McGraw-Hill, and his current position as senior investment and residential property associate at The Ensbury Group- Keller Williams Commercial. He currently serves on the Parking and Public Improvements Commission.

His candidate statement stresses his experience working on multi-million dollar projects in which he helped provide technology solutions to universities “with budgets and operations as extensive and complex as our City’s” thereby acquiring “skills necessary to understand and protect City’s revenues and expenditures.” His platform emphasizes finance issues, including priorities to “[p]romote fiscal responsibility to secure our City’s financial future; Limit hiring of expensive City Hall executive staff; Reduce the rampant use of expensive consultants; Support improving public safety; Bring oversight and fresh ideas to City Council.”

Hadley, 55, is a political newcomer but is married to former Assemblyman David Hadley. On her ballot statement, she identifies herself as a non-profit treasurer. She comes from a business background, including earning an MBA at Dartmouth and work experience with Banker’s Trust, RJR Nabisco, and Colombia House. She also owned a small retail business, Nancy’s Petites, for a decade in Wisconsin and currently works as an aide at the Manhattan Beach library.

Hadley’s stated council priorities are public safety, fiscally responsible government, and “strong, safe schools.” She cites a decade of experience as a Neighborhood Watch four-block captain and supports more automated license-plate readers “to catch bad guys,” pledges “ no new, expensive city positions” and suggests City Hall should be open five days a week.

“It’s time for a new voice and a new face on council,” Hadley wrote. “My MBA., and my financial and analytical experience will make me effective immediately.”

Powell, 65, served on City Council from 2009 to 2017 and lists his occupation as “retired council member/CFO.” His candidate statement emphasizes his community involvement, citing a long list of organizations he’s volunteered with: MB Coordinating Council, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), MB Historical Society, MB Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, and the LA County Beach Commission. He also cites accomplishments as a councilman, including his council’s balanced budgets without tax increases, curtailing wasteful spending, helping public safety improve response times, support for schools and senior programs, and stopping the state from taking local sand. His statement says he “opposed unnecessary, costly consultant contracts” and “worked vigorously to control escalating salaries/pension costs.”

“As a longtime resident and dedicated community leader/volunteer, I’ve worked passionately to improve your quality of life and keep our community safe,” Powell wrote.

Stern, 56, is another political newcomer. She’s a 24-year Manhattan Beach resident who works as a program director for Creating Conversations, a subsidiary of Mysterious Galaxy bookstores, for whom she also works as a books event specialist. Her candidate statement highlights a varied past that includes working as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice and as an accountant for Arthur Anderson. She also emphasizes her familiarity with MBUSD schools, where her four kids were educated and where she worked as a volunteer.

“Through my experiences, I have developed a collaborative leadership approach, an analytical thinking style, and an open mind,” Stern wrote. “I will bring these skills to council to work toward consensus-driven decisions that benefit all. My priorities are: respecting the interests of our residents while recognizing the needs of the business community; enhancing public safety; and protecting our natural resources. I will approach all city concerns with fiscal integrity for our present and future stability.”

Ungoco, 49, ran unsuccessfully for council in 2017. He lists his profession as a strategic communications consultant and has a resume that includes recently founding his own real estate firm, working as a Realtor for Keller Williams, and working as a “brandwrangler” in New York City’s fashion industry for 15 years. Though relatively new to town, arriving only three years ago, Ungoco’s candidate statement emphasizes community involvement. He is an area coordinator for Neighborhood Watch, a Manhattan Beach Conservancy board member, a mentor for the MB Chamber’s Young Entrepreneur program, and a senior officer for the Beach Cities Masonic Lodge.

He wrote that his intention is to make the City Council more fair, inclusive, and transparent and “actively solicit the input of all our residents and local business owners in the most inclusive way possible and through all available means – traditional and digital; be responsive to residents’ suggestions and concerns while we forge our city’s future and respect its past.”

Withers, 37, is a political newcomer but a fourth generation Manhattan Beach resident whose great uncle Jerome Withers was an MBPD chief and great grandmother Maude Withers was a founding member of the Neptunians Woman’s Club.

“Just like you, I am a citizen, not a politician,” he wrote in his candidate statement. “My heart belongs to this city, and I will passionately do all that is in my power to help preserve what makes Manhattan Beach such a special place while we continue to grow. We are at a crucial time in our city’s history, and we need to bring common sense back into the City Council chambers…I want to give our police the tools they need to keep us safe. I want to see our tax dollars spent where they are needed most. I want to see developers and citizens treated equally. I want to champion ALL businesses, including but not just those downtown. It’s time for something new.”


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