Calling it a "terribly difficult decision," Mayor Alan Viterbi last week announced that he will not seek reelection to the West Hollywood City Council in April.
The 26-year-old Viterbi, who won the second highest number of votes in a field of 45 council candidates during the city's inaugural election in 1984 to become one of the state's youngest public officials, said his decision was prompted by the increasing demands of a new business.
"The city deserves someone who will be able to devote more time to the city's business than I could see myself devoting in the future," said Viterbi, who six months ago helped to found an outdoor advertising firm based in Phoenix.
Under the state's election law, his decision, as an incumbent, not to enter the race by last Thursday's filing deadline meant that the deadline was automatically extended for five days, until 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Viterbi's choice not to enter came as a surprise in West Hollywood political circles, with only a handful of Viterbi confidants aware of it until Thursday afternoon.
His is one of two council seats to be contested at large in the April 12 election. Council Member Abbe Land, who holds the other contested seat, is seeking reelection.
In an interview, Viterbi said he will endorse his council aide, Paul Koretz, 32, to replace him and predicted that Koretz "will be the front-runner."
Viterbi praised Koretz, a former aide to Los Angeles City Council members Zev Yaroslavsky and Marvin Braude, as "the most knowledgeable person with respect to the issues affecting West Hollywood you're going to find."
However, several observers predicted Viterbi's absence from the race will result in a "wide-open scramble" for at least one of the two council seats.
"I think this makes me the front-runner," asserted Ruth Williams, a twice-unsuccessful candidate who has been critical of Viterbi for being "too pro-development."
"This changes everything. . . . My phone hasn't stopped ringing all afternoon," she said Thursday.
Some supporters of Viterbi agreed. "I think his staying out (of the race) upsets the whole apple cart, and it's going to be anybody's guess (who the front-runner will be) at this point," said Steve Schulte, who has been Viterbi's closest ally on the City Council.
"I understand his reason for not wanting to run, but I still regret the decision. I've lost a good friend on the council," he said.
Viterbi said his own polling had indicated that "I would have had no trouble being reelected . . . but when you try to put in 90-hour weeks for very long, inevitably it takes its toll."
In addition to his council duties, Viterbi said his appointment last year as mayor--a ceremonial post that is rotated among council members annually--has added considerably to his workload.
Had he won reelection, Viterbi would have remained mayor until June. His bowing out of the race means the council will likely make the choosing of a new mayor a first order of business after the election.
At the time he assumed the mayor's role last June, Viterbi was holding down a full-time job and membership on the boards of a synagogue and two groups devoted to providing housing for the elderly.
After assuming the mayor's post, he resigned as executive director of Women's American ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation Through Training), a group that supports vocational schools around the world.
However, since starting the advertising firm, he has been kept busy with frequent trips to Phoenix, Chicago and elsewhere while trying to devote 25 to 40 hours a week to his council duties, he said.
Almost from the beginning of his council tenure, there had been speculation that Viterbi might be looking beyond West Hollywood to broader political horizons.
On Thursday, the mayor acknowledged that "people have been accusing me of that for years."
"I had once contemplated running for higher office," he said. "But in making this decision, I clearly have no intention of running for elective office ever again.