Thirteen incumbents, including three mayors and three Monterey Park council members, were ousted by San Gabriel Valley voters in municipal elections Tuesday, according to unofficial returns.
Issues ranging from the need for a new civic direction to disagreement over specific issues, such as growth and waste-to-energy plants, were cited as reasons that newcomers defeated veterans in several of the elections in 23 cities.
In Monterey Park, Mayor Rudy Peralta and council members David R. Almada and Lily Lee Chen were defeated by three candidates who charged that the incumbents had failed to control the city's growth.
Incumbents also lost in Azusa, Duarte, San Dimas, Claremont, El Monte, South El Monte, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena.
In Duarte, two 12-year veterans, including the mayor, lost to newcomers who charged that the council had dragged its feet in opposing waste-to-energy plants.
In South El Monte, one of the few cities to elect a mayor separately, incumbent John Gonzales was defeated by Albert Perez.
Voters in two cities also got to voice their opinions on ballot measures.
In Azusa, where the City Council has already rejected a use permit sought by the developer of a proposed waste-to-energy plant, voters overwhelmingly voted against such plants.
La Verne voters gave their approval to continuing to allow the sale of fireworks in the city and making the offices of city treasurer and city clerk appointive rather than elective.
Here are the highlights of the San Gabriel Valley municipal elections:
Desire for a change in city government and a perception that the council moved too slowly to oppose proposed waste-to-energy plants in nearby cities were cited in explaining why two incumbents were ousted in Duarte.
Newcomers Terry Michaelis and John Hitt, both 41, led the field of five candidates. Also winning was incumbent John Van Doren. But Mayor J. A. Montgomery, 63, and Councilman Carlyle Falkenborg, 65, were defeated.
"The consensus was that it was time for a change, and they (Hitt and Michaelis) capitalized on that," said Van Doren, 42, who won his third four-year term.
Both Michaelis and Hitt said they represent a new generation of Duarte residents.
Hitt also attributed the defeat of the two long-time incumbents to the belief of some voters that the council had not reacted fast enough in opposing waste-to-energy plants, including one in nearby Irwindale. About 400 angry residents turned out to criticize the plant at an August council meeting at which the council decided to oppose the plant.
The vote "is a reflection of the community to the trash plants," Hitt said. "And as challengers it was easier for people to identify with us as being in opposition to the plants."
Neither Hitt nor Michaelis criticized the incumbents' overall performance, but said that it is time that some of Duarte's newer residents be allowed to help decide the city's direction.
"I think these fellows have done a lot of good," said Michaelis. "When you serve that long, people start looking for a change."
Montgomery, who, along with Falkenborg will step down at next week's council meeting, said he was disappointed but "not too unhappy."
The city has "reached a maturity and now it's time for a newer generation to take over."
South El Monte
Two of the three incumbents went down to defeat as veteran City Councilman Albert Perez edged out Mayor John Gonzales in the mayoral race and Planning Commissioner Jim Kelly sacked his longtime friend Greg Meis to gain a council seat.
Councilman Ignacio (Slim) Gracia, a 66-year-old retired salesman who has served on the council since 1980, won reelection to a second full four-year term.
Meis and Gonzales had been on the losing side of a 3-2 council vote earlier this year amending a strict ordinance requiring the removal of 237 metal buildings in town. The defeated incumbents had favored strict enforcement of the ordinance, while Perez and Gracia supported an amendment that will allow most buildings to remain if they are refurbished.
But the races focused largely on personalities. Perez, a 54-year-old engineer who has served on the council since 1972, contended that Gonzales, 51, a bookbinder, had alienated his colleagues by refusing to sit with them at official functions and had created a bad image for the city. Gonzales said he preferred to circulate among the public.
The council has 30 days to appoint someone to finish the last two years of Perez's council term or order a special election, according to City Clerk Margaret Garcia.
Kelly, a 58-year-old truck driver, was the city's first elected mayor and retired from the council in 1984, but had been serving on the Planning Commission. Kelly and Meis, a 55-year-old salesman on the council since 1980, had been friends and allies until a rift developed in recent months. Kelly said he decided to enter the race after he heard Meis refer to Gonzales as the best mayor the city ever had.
Homer Wilson, 69, a retired welding salesman, finished last in the race.