Speculation ends as Francina does not pull
papers for November City Council election
By Mary M. Long
The papers are filed and the race is on. Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the filing deadline for the upcoming Ojai City Council race, which will be on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot.
The deadline was extended from Friday when incumbent Mayor Steve Olsen decided not to run for re-election. There could be a major shake-up at City Hall because seats currently held by Carol Smith and Paul Blatz are also up for grabs.
Candidate Lenny Klaif, who was defeated by Blatz in a June special election for the seat vacated by longtime Councilman Joe DeVito, will again enter the race, along with Blatz, Smith and challengers Carlon Strobel, Dennis Leary and Demitri Corbin. Speculation that Suza Francina might be a challenger ended with the filing deadline.
Strobel is stepping down from her position as records manager and city clerk to make a run for City Council, with veteran Cynthia Burrell taking the position as city clerk in Strobel’s absence.
Strobel leaves her salaried position of $87,669 to be a newcomer in the City Council race for a position that pays $5,700 annually. She describes her decision as sort of an epiphany. “One day I was telling a citizen who was complaining, ‘If you don’t like the way the city is being managed then step up to the plate and do something.’ Then I thought, why don’t you take your own advice? I was absolutely certain, and I’ve been certain ever since,” Strobel said.
The position of records manager is mandated to be objective, and Strobel felt that the voice of the citizens of Ojai was just not being heard. One of her complaints was the lack of transparency in the city manager’s office. She said the Skate Park and Libbey Bowl projects were taking too long to be completed, and the city and the public were not interacting in a way to move things forward. “When the public asks for documents or information, our priority as servants is to get that information to them immediately,” she said. “I felt like I was spending a lot of time dragging records out of people.” She made it clear that 98 percent of city records, including financial records, are public. “It’s almost as though we have forgotten that we are stewards, servants. We are not the owners of the city, the citizens are,” said Strobel.
She has a positive opinion of interim city manager John Baker, and had experience working with him when he filled the gap between outgoing Dan Singer and incoming Jerry Kersnar in 2005. She describes Baker as a bottom-line kind of guy who likes to get thing done, claiming, “We can have an hour’s conversation in 30 seconds. I think he is very skilled and has a tremendous amount of expertise,” she added.
Qualifying for the November ballot for the position of city clerk, which pays a stipend of just $350 a month plus benefits, are Cynthia Burrell and Shari Herbruck. Burrell is currently acting as interim city clerk for the outgoing Strobel, resuming a position that she held for 20 years. Burrell said, “Right now, people are not happy and it’s time to get it back,” naming the years between 1989 and 2001, under city manager Andy Belknap as years of teamwork. “I must love this city,” she said, citing her reasons for running for office and wanting to be part of the upcoming city government team she describes as “exciting.”
Herbruck will be retaining her present position of planning and building technician for the Community Development Department which has an annual salary of $48,470, and cites her reason for running for city clerk as a desire “to keep the city running smoothly while in transition.” The position of records manager vacated by Strobel, with compensation ranging from $72,126 to $87,669 annually, will be filled through a process of interviewing and processing applicants by the city manager’s office. Interim city manager Baker is currently out of the office, but is expecting to announce his appointment for the records manager position as early as next week.
In November, the wild card in the elections may just be the luck of the draw. Yesterday, the State of California was expected to draw for the order that the candidates will appear on the November ballot. Studies have shown that candidates whose names are listed first on the ballot have an advantage in the voting. The results of this drawing will be available on the California Secretary of State’s Election Division web site at sos.ca.gov.
To see the county’s filing list, click HERE