LAKEWOOD — Trying to capture the remaining year of a four-year term, the five candidates running in Tuesday's special election to fill Assemblyman Paul Zeltner's vacant City Council seat are not exactly setting the campaign trail on fire.
Rather than developing major themes or issues, most of the candidates have campaigned mainly on their personal style and experience.
In a field of political newcomers, Wayne E. Piercy, 55, who served a four-year term on the Lakewood City Council in 1972, is promoting his experience as a councilman to gain an advantage.
Richard Brown, a 24-year-old financial planner, is hoping that his youth will grab attention from voters eager to see "some new blood on the City Council."
Lakewood developer Russell L. Godin, 51, cites his role as a neighborhood spokesman in a dispute with McDonnell Douglas over the height of one of its buildings, saying it gave him "the experience in two-way communication on which I am basing my campaign."
R.C. (Bob) Trimble, 60, the owner of a building maintenance company who occasionally writes one-liners for comedian Joan Rivers, says his letters to the editor that have appeared in Los Angeles-area newspapers have made him a well-known Lakewood resident. He also says he hopes to bring "a little humor to city business."
The write-in candidate, retired teacher Dea Langlois, 62, says the council needs another woman. Her 20 years in the Long Beach Unified School District, she says, put her in touch with the needs of working parents.
All the candidates have reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining programs, parks, the senior citizen center and the overall standard of living in Lakewood, a predominately white, upper-middle-class city of about 75,000.
But it has been a low-key race. At a recent candidates forum, Piercy, Brown, Godin and Trimble skirted potentially thorny questions concerning the development of the vacant 33-acre Chevron tank farm.
Many residents and city officials are worried about the development of the site, which is the last large open piece of land in the city.
Each of the four candidates voiced similar concern about the site to the three dozen residents in the audience but took no position. All of them said they preferred to wait until they had more information before commenting in detail.
So far, Piercy has raised the most contributions with $5,024, according to financial campaign statements filed last week with the city clerk. Brown is next with $2,087, Godin with $1,265 and Langlois $384. Trimble has not received any contributions but has spent $409.
Richard Brown: While Brown acknowledges that he does not have the experience of the other candidates, he says he is not intimidated by that or by his age, which he sees as one of his biggest assets.
Brown calls himself "a product of Lakewood living" and stresses his strong ties to the community.
"I have small brothers that are in the elementary schools, I have grandparents who live in Lakewood, I coach sports and it hasn't been that long since I've been in high school," Brown said. "I've gone to Lakewood school and played in Lakewood parks. I don't think you can get much closer to a community."
Brown said one of his major concerns is the city's trees.
"I feel the city needs to maintain their commitment to keep the city streets looking good," he said. "They need to repair the trees whose roots have torn up people's driveways and sidewalks."
Russell Godin: He also says that he knows the needs of the community and cites his leadership of Good Neighbors of Douglas, made up of residents living near the Lakewood Country Club who organized last year to oppose the expansion of a building on the Douglas plant along Carson Street in Long Beach.
"Through two-way communication we were able to resolve a problem and avoid a major lawsuit," Godin said. "That experience taught me that you can work out a win-win situation between the city and the residents if you keep communication open."
Godin believes members of the City Council should seek more public input by walking their neighborhoods, and also has suggested a questionnaire on local issues in Lakewood Living, the city's monthly magazine.
Dea Langlois: Langlois, who filed nomination papers Feb. 17, the last day for write-in candidates, says one of her main concerns is working with the city and school districts to develop a stronger after-school child-care program.
Langlois, who retired in 1985, said she decided to run because she wants to get more involved in the community now that she has the time.
She says more communication between the city and residents is needed, and advocates the establishment of council districts in the city as the first step. Since incorporating in 1954, Lakewood has elected its officials at-large.
"I think the citizens would be better represented if the city was divided into council districts," she said. "That way a council member could move around better and get to know his constituents much better."