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Industry Voters Get to Decide Rare Challenge

February 20, 1986|VICTOR VALLE | Times Staff Writer

INDUSTRY — For only the third time in the city's 29-year history, incumbents are facing a challenge in their bids for reelection to the City Council.

But it appears that Lydia A. Nash, the soft-spoken elementary school teacher who is taking on the city's political Establishment, will find it difficult to stimulate any kind of public debate. "I'll tell you what, I'm not going to answer nothing, so just forget it," Councilman Manuel A. Garcia, 75, one of the incumbents seeking reelection, told a reporter who sought an interview last week.

Councilman John Paul Ferrero, also seeking reelection, had a similar response. "I'm not going to waste my time talking to you," he told a Times reporter.

City Clerk Philip L. Iriarte said that he does not believe Ferrero and Garcia will actively campaign.

Undecided on Campaign

And the third incumbent, Councilman Patrick Perez, said he has not decided whether to actively campaign.

Nash is the sole challenger in the election in which the top three vote-getters will win.

The 60-year-old Nash, on the other hand, said she will campaign door-to-door in seeking support from the city's 232 registered voters. Nash said she wants to lower property taxes, increase citizen participation in city government and increase competitive bidding for city contracts.

She said she will also seek ways to speed up the construction of a sewer line in her neighborhood along Rowland Avenue east of Azusa Avenue. Without the sewer, she and her neighbors cannot secure the city building permits that they say are essential to develop their land to its full economic potential.

Nash and the residents have attempted to apply for building permits, but they say city officials told them they cannot get permits permit until a sewer is built.

May Win Fight

Nash may be about to win that fight, however. City Engineer John Radecki said the city has agreed to form the assessment district she has been seeking and pay the engineering costs of designing the sewer line. It may take another month, he said, before the city puts the engineering contract out to bid.

But Nash isn't convinced yet. "They've been making promises for a long time," she said.

Should Nash win, she would become the city's first councilwoman and the first challenger of either sex to unseat an incumbent since the city was founded in 1957.

Ferrero, 32, who was 19 when first appointed, is seeking his 4th term. Perez, 46, is seeking his first full term after being appointed in 1984 to fill a vacancy left by the death of Councilman Charles J. Rowland. Garcia, 75, was appointed to the council in 1981 after the death of Councilman Darius Johnson. He is seeking his first full term.

Leading Role

Despite its leading role as the San Gabriel Valley's industrial and commercial center, the city of 660 residents retains a small-town atmosphere left over from the days when most of its 10 square miles were devoted to farming. Today, the city's residents live in several pockets of working-class homes scattered throughout the city.

Because of the city's small population, government is often a tight-knit, family affair where voters sometimes elect candidates who also their are relatives, employers or long-time business associates.

John Paul Ferrero, for example, is the son of Mayor John Ferrero. The mayor's sister, Phyllis Tucker, serves as city treasurer. City Clerk Iriarte is the son of Philip Iriarte, who serves as a director of the Industry Urban Development Agency (IUDA), Industry's chief redevelopment panel. Kevin Radecki, who works for the city as an administrative assistant, is the son of City Engineer John Radecki.

"We only have a small number of people, so there's a certain amount of meeting yourself around the corner," City Atty. Graham Ritchie once said about Industry. "There is that small-town effect to a lot of the formal operations of the city. We have a limited pool from which to draw.

"There is a philosophical problem when you have two relatives in the same organization," he continued. "You dilute the checks and balances, but I don't believe that we have that situation here."

Less Reluctance

Nash, who has no relatives in city government, is not as reluctant as the incumbents to talk about the campaign.

"I'm going to present the voters with a choice that hasn't been available in recent years," she said. The fifth-grade teacher at Bixby Elementary School in Hacienda Heights says she is not intimidated by the failure of past candidates to successfully challenge the city's political Establishment.

"I'm not concerned about my chances for winning. All I can do is make myself available to the voters. We have all read the articles in the newspapers, and there needs to be some change," she said, as she referred to the federal indictments of Industry founder James M. Stafford. Stafford pleaded guilty in 1984 to orchestrating a kickback scheme that defrauded the city of $1.35 million in redevelopment contracts. He is serving an eight-year sentence.

No Elective Office

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