AVALON — Historically, the city's mayor has been selected by City Council members from among themselves for a one-year term.
But last year, all five wanted to be mayor. To avoid future disputes, voters will be asked in the April 8 municipal election whether the people should elect the mayor directly, and if so, for a two-year or a four-year term.
The city's 1,558 registered voters also will select from among six candidates for two four-year council seats and will decide whether the council should establish an assessment district to raise money for an additional fire station.
Elections in Avalon traditionally have high turnouts; about 72% of the eligible voters cast ballots in the 1984 municipal election.
But rather than rousing debates over issues, council races usually have been personality contests with an old-fashioned, small-town flavor.
Councilman W. F. (Oley) Olsen III, seeking a second term, recently ran an ad in the city's weekly newspaper, the Catalina Islander, saying "Vote for Holly's Dad." Presumably, everyone knows that Holly is his 3-year-old daughter.
Councilwoman Irene L. Strobel, seeking a second term, has been running ads emphasizing her involvement in getting public restrooms built along Casino Way and rehabilitating others on the Pleasure Pier. She also ran an ad stating the need to have a woman on the council because women's views "are usually more domestic than national."
Challenger Roger Cadman ran an ad pointing out the city's problems with yellow jackets and other wasps and asking residents to call him if they spot a nest.
Candidates Hal Host, Quintin A. Leonhardi and Hal Starr have run photographs of themselves in the newspaper, with Leonhardi wearing a wide-rimmed hat and Starr wearing a cap bearing the word "Captain."
Campaigns have traditionally been positive, although this year Olsen took a shot at Strobel by running an ad that said, "Silence may be golden, but not at council meetings."
In a statement published in the Islander, Strobel said her silence was not a sign that she didn't do her homework but that "the continuous arguments are fruitless and often a waste of time."
Observers said direct election of the mayor could go either way. As for the fire station, which nearly everyone agrees is needed, Proposition D creating an assessment district is expected to lose. Observers said the proposition is too vague, with no one knowing the actual cost.
A council member who asked not to be identified said the proposition was placed on the ballot at the last minute to take heat off the council if it made the decision.
A brief profile of the candidates:
- Hal Host, 66, is a retired regional manager for an insurance company and current chairman of the Planning Commission. Host declined to say how he will vote on the propositions.
Host, who is single, has lived in Avalon since 1964. He has been involved in several business ventures and once owned the Busy Bee restaurant.
He said he is running because "sometimes we need new blood on the council." He said the council needs to pay more attention to fiscal matters, specifically a review of the city's travel policy.
- Quintin A. Leonhardi, 71, is a former chef and restaurant consultant who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat two years ago. Since then he has been attending council meetings and challenging various city expenditures.
Leonhardi said he is opposed to the issuance of city credit cards to council members and to the city's per-diem policy on travel, which gives council members a flat $50 per day for meals when they travel, regardless of actual expenses.
He said he opposes using taxpayer money to bring a nonprofit FM radio station to the city. Olsen and Strobel were part of the council majority that voted to spend about $2,100 for filing fees and consultants in connection with the radio station. Leonhardi said he also opposes any increases in sewage or salt water fees and favors reorganizing the redevelopment agency with community members rather than having council members as directors.
Leonhardi favors direct election of the mayor for a four-year term. He would not commit himself on establishing the assessment district but said a new fire station is needed.
He and his wife, Trudy, have lived in Avalon for 19 years.
- W. F. (Oley) Olsen III, 34, is general manager of two hotels and, besides Holly, has a 2-month-old son. Olsen has lived in Avalon most of his life.
Olsen said he is seeking reelection because he enjoys being involved in local government. He said his four years on the council is an asset. While saying that the council does everythig as a group, he takes personal some credit for the city's dial-a-ride program and basketball courts at Cabrillo Park.
He said he opposes the per-diem policy and would like to see annual travel allowances for council members reduced to about $1,500 from about $2,700. "There is benefit to be gained by some travel, but we don't have to attend every conference," he said.