Mark Arapostathis Will Run For Mayor

LA MESA -- Mark Arapostathis, a school teacher, theater director and City Council member, will run for mayor -- trying to unseat his one-time political ally who has reigned over local politics for more than two decades.

Arapostathis -- "Dr. A" as he is called by his students, friends and supporters -- announced his plans Wednesday flanked by three fellow council members who were publicly endorsing his candidacy. The announcement was made at a press conference held near La Mesa's iconic Village train museum on Nebo Drive and was attended by a group of friends, family and supporters from among the different constituencies Arapostathis has counted on over the years.

"Service,'' he said is his motivation for running and his belief that he can bring greater unity to the City Council and better access to city government for the people of La Mesa.

Arapostathis, 47, kept his remarks short and never mentioned his opponent. He said he intends to stick to the issues throughout the campaign and not engage in personal attacks. "I'm not bringing up anyone's past,'' he said.

Arapostathis' colleagues, however, made it clear they were hoping he could defeat Mayor Art Madrid.

City Council members Ernie Ewin, Ruth Sterling and Kristine Alessio appeared at Arapostathis' side in a show of unity against a long-serving mayor these four had come to oppose in recent years.

"I've had 20 years of bullying and now we have a viable candidate,'' Sterling said.

Alessio added: "November 4th will be a great day for La Mesa. Term limits will win and so will Mark.''

Madrid said he expected Arapostathis' announcement and welcomed him into a race. He questioned Arapostathis' call for unity, saying Arapostathis will need to learn to compromise if he hopes to bring unity to the council.

"So far he is the poster-child for the lack of unity,'' Madrid said.

He said he looks forward to debating Arapostathis at anytime, any place. "We can start tomorrow, at the drop of a hat,'' he said. "The voters will see a difference in experience and draw their own distinctions.''

Arapostathis' decision sets the stage for a watershed year in La Mesa politics. In a city of long-serving politicians in which incumbents have seldom lost, there will now be two open council seats with City Councilman Ernie Ewin already having announced his retirement from politics and Arapostathis giving up his own seat to run for the mayor's post. That means La Mesa could potentially field a political team in 2015 with two new council members and a new mayor.

But Mayor Madrid has made it clear he feels he still has work to do for La Mesa and he has beaten back tough opponents before. Then City Councilman Dave Allan once took Madrid on but was defeated convincingly.

Though in his most recent election, Madrid appeared more vulnerable. Coming off an embarrassing incident in which he appeared drunk in public and was escorted home by city staff, in 2010 Madrid was challenged by a political novice, Laura Lothian, who still managed to come within 1,100 votes of Madrid's final total.  Two years later when Lothian ran for City Council, she tallied few votes, suggesting her showing against Madrid represented a strong negative vote for the mayor.

At the same time, Arapostathis has consistently garnered strong votes from La Mesa, perhaps reflecting his deep involvement in the community over many years. Running twice as a council member, Arapostathis received the most votes for council in 2006 and 2010, garnering almost as many votes as Madrid won running with fewer opponents.

Arapostathis has roots that run long and wide through the community. As an elementary school teacher for the past 23 years and as long-serving director of the Peter Pan Jr. Theater and C. Hook Theater, he has directly touched the lives of many La Mesa families. In many ways, his "character-based'' work among the thousands of youths who have moved through PPJT and the C. Hook theater over the last three decades has afforded Arapostathis the sort of standing in the community that had once been enjoyed by legendary athletic coaches.

And in the last year, Arapostathis was among a small group of educators who persuaded the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board to let them create a new "arts-based" magnet school-within-a- school on the La Mesa Middle School campus. The first year enrollment for the La Mesa Arts Academy is expected to exceed 500 and has attracted students from outside the school district to help return that campus to near historic high enrollment.

In fact, it was Arapostathis' many commitments around town that had some wondering whether he had the time to commit to the mayor's role. He can often be seen moving around town in his golf cart, and occasionally on his motorcycle, going from event to event. He also serves on the Boys & Girls Club group raising $9-million for a new facility in West La Mesa. 

Arapostathis said he is convinced he can handle the job as it is designed, a part-time leader of a council of five who give guidance to full-time professional management of the city. And though Arapostathis and Madrid have been largely in lock-step on major issues in La Mesa, it is the role and style expected of the La Mesa mayor where the two have parted ways in recent years.

Madrid, retired many years now from his job as a lobbyist, kept an office at City Hall and was there virtually daily in recent years. He used his long-serving status to deepen his involvement with wider government entities including the San Diego Association of Governments, the National League of Cities and other state, regional and national groups.

Madrid has argued that such deep involvements in wide political spheres has been keeping La Mesa, a small city, competitive for grants and its professional management well directed.

Arapostathis increasingly became part of a council majority that continually voted to rein in Madrid, forcing him to limit his travels and share the wider duties across the full council. That majority voted earlier this year to remove Madrid from his SANDAG responsibilities, which were transferred to council newcomer Kristine Alessio.

All and all, it appears on paper that Madrid has never had an opponent that looks as strong as Arapostathis. In a survey conducted last month by La Mesa Today, Arapostathis clearly outpointed Madrid among the nearly 400 people who took the poll. Arapostathis has many roles in this small town (see graphic below).

His performance in the La Mesa Today poll suggests early strength among the Internet savvy in town for sure. How it translates into the real ballot box is yet to be seen.

That's what campaigns are about.




Views: 1441

Tags: Art Madrid, City Council, Ernie Ewin, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Mark Arapostathis, Ruth Sterling


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Comment by Jeremy Ogul on April 15, 2014 at 4:58pm

Who is this ultra-liberal dark horse Batman keeps talking about? 

Comment by Batman on April 6, 2014 at 12:00pm

My prediction - It's a close one. Either way one council seat is taken by a moderately conservative gentleman the other by a flaming liberal. The liberal starts influencing the rest of the members and La Mesa goes down the debt rat hole along with hundreds of other cities, contract services or not.

Most of America's larger cities are drowning in debt and rife with social ills like street gang violence. And 27 of the 30 largest cities in America have Democrat mayors. What does that tell you? And these ills are quickly trickling down to the smaller cities. 

Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on April 5, 2014 at 9:07pm

My Prediction-Madrid loses in a landslide.  The two council seats get taken up by people who care about the city and that means regardless of party affiliation, they will have to face the reality of a city losing money and needing to reform its employee benefits and pensions, outsource where possible and figure out how to survive.  If the police and fire can't give up some benefits to remain under City auspices, then I guess we go to Sheriffs and County Fire or figure out another option.  We save the fire department and police millions very simply and very quickly with logical sensible changes that alllows everyone to win.  Change often brought forward by other before.  However, not one  red cent for more taxes to continue to pay excessive pensions and benefits to safety and non-safety employees.

Comment by Batman on April 5, 2014 at 8:18pm

Yes Mr. Cavanaugh, fiscally responsible does matter. And one party is still slightly more fiscally responsible than the other, for the most part. I believe Madrid is becoming more beatable as time goes on, but an incumbent is always difficult to beat under any circumstances, even if they are lousy. It's just a fact of politics. I am not adverse to having Dr. A as mayor and will consider voting for him. But to win an election you have to actually get people's votes, not just their consideration. Since he is sacrificing his council seat for this run I am actually kind of hoping he wins just so it won't be a waste. Speaking for myself, I would not give up a seat to challenge an entrenched incumbent based on a single straw poll of 400 people in a city of 30,000 voters. But, it's Dr. A's decision.

The certain ultra-liberal I'm referring to is supported by the same political machine that supports David Alvarez down in San Diego. The same political machine that I am convinced is trying to bankrupt and destroy city government.  As a lifelong resident it seems very strange to me that La Mesa Fire Department no longer exists, and even stranger that in the not too distant future La Mesa Police Department may not exist either. The advantage of living in an incorporated city is enhanced services, the disadvantage is more ordinances and regulations. If we eventually lose all our enhanced services perhaps we should just de-incorporate, it would make life a lot easier.

Oh, and nobody is under any obligation to read my comments or take them seriously. This is Batman speaking, take it or leave it.

Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on April 5, 2014 at 12:36am

Hey Batman, take a chill pill.  No one is enjoying reading you babble on like a homeless person talking to himself in the intersections.  Madrid will lose badly and two new council people who give a crap about the city will fill the vacancies.  At this point, left or right doesn't matter.  Fiscally responsible does.

Comment by Batman on April 4, 2014 at 10:27pm

Hmm, with not one but two open seats on the council a certain ultra-left candidate will have an almost guaranteed chance at one of them. And all at Dr. A's expense. Fiendishly clever! And very Nagelvellian too!

Comment by Batman on April 3, 2014 at 9:12pm

Oh, Dr. A, I don't mean you necessarily need to ride a bicycle. Use your golf cart.

Comment by Batman on April 3, 2014 at 8:48pm

Well, at this point I'm no longer worried about who might replace Art Madrid, this election. Either way it goes is OK with me. But, who will replace "Dr. A"? Now I'm really worried! I honestly don't see a need to replace anyone on our city council at the present time. Either way it goes we lose Dr. A from the council. 

Now if flopping down drunk on the sidewalk didn't destroy Madrid politically what will? I fear Dr. Arapostathis may have been talked into a kamikaze run against the unsinkable USS Madrid.

Dr. A, if you're going to pull this off you're going to have to do like Madrid back in 1990. Do you have the energy and stamina for it? A loyal crew of able-bodied young people would sure make it easier, but you will still need to make a lot of appearances yourself. Madrid says anyone taking his seat will have to earn it. He's not kidding.

Comment by Batman on April 3, 2014 at 8:01am

It's mighty gallant of Mr. Arapostathis to risk his council seat to take on the entrenched incumbent. I sure hope this LM Today poll is not a trick! And Art Madrid, be careful. "Not if I win but when I win" is the same attitude Fred Nagel had when you beat him, remember?

Comment by knikki royster on April 2, 2014 at 4:10pm
My daughter is doing her first year with PPJT and will be attending LMAAC next year. It has given me several opportunities to interact with Dr. A. & honestly I marvel at how he does sooo many things all at once?! Teacher, director, city council, LMAAC creation...and somehow he does all these things efficiently and with a smile on his face! Oh did I mention it's "Show Week" for Oliver! --- wow, just wow!

Good Luck!
Knikki Hewitt
GiGi's Mom

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