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Contrasting the 2 Men Who Would Be Mayor

December 03, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

They are the two faces of Ventura.

One is a folksy, down-home native, a 10-year veteran of the City Council, whose welding and construction firms service the Ventura Avenue oil fields and local naval industry.

The other is a savvy, corporate-trained entrepreneur, a relative newcomer to the council, who owns nine fast-food franchises and is the founding chairman of Ventura's newest national bank.

Both want to be mayor. But so far, neither has the majority of votes needed to be elected by his colleagues when the seven-member council convenes Monday to fill the two-year seat.

Jim Monahan, 52, considered the more veteran, plain-spoken and deeply rooted of the two, has three votes. Council members John McWherter and Nan Drake say they will support him because of his experience.

Bill Crew, 44, viewed as less seasoned but more diplomatic and astute, has two votes. Outgoing Mayor John Sullard says he will support him because of his ability to find suitable compromises.

Contrasting Styles

Beyond the mayoral politicking, however, their contrasting images and styles reflect the transitional period in which Ventura now finds itself, say many council members and civic leaders.

Monahan and Crew, their colleagues say, mirror the community's gradual shift from an industrial to a professional base--the split between a homey, small-town appeal and a more cosmopolitan, polished approach.

While some council members warned against making generalizations about the two mayoral hopefuls, most agreed that such classifications were helpful in the absence of other fundamental differences in ideology or qualifications.

"It's really going to come down to style and perhaps intensity between the two individuals," said Councilman Dennis Orrock, who chose not to seek reelection and will step down from the council Monday.

"Mr. Monahan is a native son and has a large following. He perhaps would rely more on the old line of thinking," he said. "Mr. Crew, I think, would be more receptive to the thinking and ideas of the newer people."

Those are distinctions that are not lost on the two incoming council members, Richard Francis and Don Villeneuve, who carry the deciding votes into the Monday meeting. Both say they are undecided.

'State of Ambivalence'

"The city is in kind of a state of ambivalence right now," Villeneuve said. "There is the older sort of foundation that comes out of the oil patch and heavy industry. Those people tend to be kind of rough around the edges, fairly blunt and may lack some of the diplomatic skills. But they're a very significant part of the city.

"The other side is that we're maturing and developing," he said.

"There's a growing population that fits the image of the Westlake type. I think they tend to be upwardly mobile and perhaps have a higher degree of formal education . . . Jim is more closely identified with the older line, and Bill is definitely on the more corporate side of the scale."

Although the mayor has no formal powers to provide him a weighty influence over city business, most council members agree that the style of the officeholder has a significant effect on the city's identity.

Whether meeting with prospective developers or representing the council at regional conferences, the mayor often is responsible for the first impression that others have of the community, they say.

"The mayor doesn't have any more power," said McWherter, a 14-year veteran of the council. "But in people's minds, it is a very, very important position. The mayor is the image of the city."

For Jim Monahan, who has served four years as deputy mayor and twice has made unsuccessful bids for the mayor's seat, that image is one of a slow, steady and dependable leader.

"I can relate to the public much better than Mr. Crew because of the length of time I've been here and the people who know me and know of my integrity," Monahan said. "I understand the history of the city. I don't have to read it in a book. I've seen it happen."

Welding Background

Born and raised near Ventura Avenue, Monahan graduated from Ventura College with a degree in business administration before starting work at his father's business, American Welding Co., about 30 years ago.

A licensed welder and contractor, Monahan took over the firm after his father died and expanded the business to include Monahan Construction Co. and American Hot Tap Service, a specialized operation that services gas and oil lines.

Running a meeting recently in place of the absent mayor, he won the respect of Councilwoman Drake for his tranquilizing influence on some agitated citizens who had addressed the council.

"Jim just talks to them very slowly," Drake said. "He seems to calm them. I call him the 'Gentle Giant.' He's a very kind fellow."

In contrast, Bill Crew, elected to the council just two years ago, projects the image of an efficient and precise manager.

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