HAWTHORNE — Mayor Guy Hocker, the city's first directly elected mayor, the senior member of the City Council and a developer who has had to balance his public and private business, has decided not to seek reelection this November after 10 years in office.
"I feel that is a respectable length of time," said the 49-year-old Hocker.
Hocker's withdrawal from city politics left the mayor's race in this city of 58,686 wide open.
Three people--council members Betty Ainsworth and G. Steven Anderson and John B. Bernadou, a resident on Social Security who has run before--are considering entering the race. The three, who have sought filing papers from the city clerk, have until 5 p.m. Friday, the filing deadline, to decide whether they will run.
While those who would replace him made plans, Hocker was in a reflective mood this week, expressing satisfaction with the way his overall approach to city government has worked.
"As to what I have done--I have not governed maybe as much as it was in the past. I hope that philosophy follows me in the city," he said in an interview.
"Governments habitually govern too much. In the final analysis, people don't want to be governed. They want to run their lives without interference from big brother government. That was the philosophy I ran on and was elected on and acted on."
Hocker said that the city streets are safer now and the city's redevelopment goals have become clarified with selection of a 20-acre site near the Los Angeles International Airport for commercial, office and industrial use.
But Hocker said Hawthorne does have its share of difficulties. He said he worries about problems brought about by the rapid ethnic change in the city.
"Ethnically, (Hawthorne) has changed--from almost no blacks and a minimal number of Hispanics. Now it has 20% blacks, 20% Hispanics and 60% whites. Bigotry exists. You can't say it doesn't. It is out there."
The problems of overdevelopment that Hocker says appear more obvious with hindsight are also of concern to him.
The mayor said the city must quickly deal with traffic and other problems caused by heavy real estate development that in the planning stages seemed reasonable and responsible.
Hindsight as Educator
"We are getting overbuilt. Hindsight is a hell of an educator," he said.
"We should address some of those issues about density to make sure we are not letting something fall through the cracks now."
As mayor, Hocker has presided over council sessions that, unlike earlier meetings, were known for harmony. "People not coming to City Hall and griping . . . means we must be doing something right," he said.
Even the 3.5% utility tax that he pushed failed to arouse opposition, he said. The tax, instituted a year ago, brings in about $2.3 million a year.
"Big corporations paid through the nose on this. And I have had two calls," he said.
Hocker won praise from his former opponent, Larry Guyer Jr., who ran against him in 1983. Guyer, who will not be a candidate this fall, said Hocker "did a good job while he was in office."
But there have been sticky moments for Hocker and the city during the time he has been mayor or in the council, including:
- Hocker's arrest for drunk driving in April 1984. The two officers who arrested him said in their police report that Hocker threatened retaliation. Hocker, who paid a fine of $669 and received a 90-day restriction of his license and three years' probation, denied the officers' claim that he had any role in their transfer five days after the arrest. A Civil Service Commission investigation ruled that the transfer was proper. The two officers have since left the force.
"That almost made me run again," he said. "I said, 'They are not going to run me out.' " But Hocker said the controversy died down. "People weren't clamoring to throw the bum out. . . . I have not just compensated for that but overcompensated. It is pretty earth-shattering when something like that happens to you."
Brutality allegations against the Police Department in 1983. The allegations surfaced in the wake of a get-tough policy instituted after a wave of complaints in 1980 about crime.
Hocker defended the department during the mayoral election. Chief Kenneth Stonebreaker this week said the FBI had cleared officers of wrongdoing in all but one complaint, the outcome of which is pending.
- A 1983 recall that ousted three other council members. Citizens were aroused after the council consolidated elections and automatically extended the terms of incumbents by 19 months.
- A 1985 grand jury investigation critical of nepotism in city government and other management practices such as handling of travel expenses and the lack of bidding for a trash contract. The city Administration is drawing up policy changes.
Among Hocker's critics is Eleanore Carlson, a rent-control advocate who lives in Moneta Gardens, where heavy apartment construction, including a 43-unit Hocker project, is under way.