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LA MESA -- The first major deadline of the fall campaign season arrived this week and all but one of the candidates who have been talking about running have followed through.
According to the La Mesa City Clerk's office, Mayor Art Madrid and City Councilman Mark Arapostathis have filed the official form signaling their candidacy for the mayor's post in November.
With two City Council seats up for grabs and with no incumbent seeking those posts, the City Council race, as expected, has started heating up first.
Bill Baber, the attorney and current La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board member, was the first to file his papers this week as he continued his run for one of the two open council seats. Mary England, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce's Executive Director, also filed for the council race. She was joined by local insurance executive Guy McWhirter, a life-long La Mesa resident with an extensive civic resume.
The clerk's office also noted that local resident Pete Gregorovic had filed preliminary papers signaling a possible run for the open council seats as well.
While the routine of joint appearances and formal debates has not begun yet, there are early signs that this will be a hot campaign season in the Jewel of the Hills.
In recent weekends, McWhirter, Baber and their supporters have been walking La Mesa's neighborhoods, leaving door hangers and feeling out local residents on key issues.
Baber, who has endorsed Arapostathis for mayor, also describes McWhirter as a "running mate."
"There are two open seats so we're not really running against each other,'' Baber said of McWhirter.
While new to the candidate's role, McWhirter has served on the Planning Commission and has been a leader in the local Church of Latter Day Saint's, serving as Bishop of a La Mesa Ward of the Mormon Church.
"There are things about La Mesa I love and I want to preserve,'' he said. "There are also things I would like to improve.''
McWhirter said he has concerns about the city's long-term fiscal health and would like to see the city start saving a portion of the Proposition L sales tax increase voters approved to prepare for the day that revenue source is no longer available.
Both McWhirter and Baber said some of the residents they are meeting on their community walkabouts may think it is early for such hand-to-hand local politics.
"But I think there are 12,000 or so family homes in La Mesa,'' Baber said. "In this town you have to start early.''
Candidates will still have until August 8 to pull papers to run in November and until August 13 for the council seats if no incumbent files.
Both of the council seats are expected to be open this year because Arapostathis is giving up his seat to challenge Madrid and City Council member Ernie Ewin has decided not to seek re-election.
Patrick Dean, a local resident who has remained engaged in politics after two previous unsuccessful runs for council, has said he intends to run again, but has not yet filed papers.