Love where you live!
LA MESA – With two open seats as the rare grand prize, the 2014 City Council race came to an end Tuesday night delivering on its promise to remake La Mesa’s leadership.
As vote totals came in, it was clear that experience and deep community roots had outdueled relative newcomers with Bill Baber (above), a three-term school board member, and long-time resident Guy McWhirter (right) claiming the two four-year council terms.
With 100 percent of the vote counted, Baber had 4,434 votes and McWhirter had 3,731. Mary England, the third place finisher, had 3,196. Candidates Patrick Dean had 2,660 and Pete Gregorovic had 1,983.
"Thank you voters for choosing me as your new La Mesa City Council member,'' Baber said. "Congratulations to our new mayor, Dr. A. I am pleased we passed our term limit initiative. Term limits puts a ticking clock on every Council member. Let's not waste any time. Let's get to work to improve La Mesa.''
McWhirter was also appreciative for support he received in his first run for office.
"I appreciate the confidence and the voters' decision in allowing me to make a difference in the city of La Mesa," McWhirter said. "I am amazed by the people who helped me to succeed. It was a tough race. I was very confident with Bill, but I wasn't sure with myself. I think my deep roots helped out and the door to door work we did, perhaps a bit too early in July and August, but I know that really helped.''
The election of Baber and McWhirter instantly changes the dynamic on the council, giving the new mayor Mark Arapostathis a unified team to launch this new era for La Mesa’s leadership. Baber and McWhirter had had the support of fellow council member Kristine Alessio and both had campaigned for Arapostathis.
Baber’s election will also quickly create a vacancy on the La Mesa-Spring Valley School board where the board will need to name a temporary successor to complete Baber’s term.
In the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board race, two incumbents will be joined by a newcomer, David Chong, who narrowly defeated incumbent Jerry Lecko for the third seat.
The Grossmont Union High School District elected Robert Shield, Jim Kelly and Gary Woods.
Helix Water Board will return both incumbents with De Ana Verbeke and Kathleen Hedberg handily beating back challenges to their water work.
La Mesa also overwhelming supported applying Term Limits to the City Council and mayor seats, meaning all council members will have to leave office after 12 years.
Voters also rejected efforts to allow medical marijuana shops into La Mesa and agreed, by a narrower margin, to convert the City Clerk position to an appointed, rather than elected, position.
For Mary England, La Mesa Chamber of Commerce's CEO, the race will undoubtedly leave a bitter taste. England had been singled out from among the five candidates and targeted by negative and sometimes anonymous mailings. McWhirter owned up to having paid for some of the attack literature, but England clearly had been targeted by funding from outside the city.