SOUTH EL MONTE — Two years ago, then-Mayor John D. Gonzales waged an unsuccessful battle against Councilman Albert Perez, losing the city's top job by only 54 votes.
This year he is back for a rematch, hoping to unseat Perez, 53, an engineer who has lived in the city for 29 years and served on the council since 1972.
"Everything is quiet and running smoothly now," Perez said. "There are no real issues and we haven't had any recalls lately," he said, referring to the recalls of two councilmen in 1977 and two more in 1980.
"The City Council members work well together. We disagree without being disagreeable. We are concentrating on development because we need the revenue," he said, adding that plans are under way to try to bring a new hotel to the city.
But Gonzales, 53, a bookbinder who has lived here 25 years and was elected to the council in 1980, sees things differently.
"I am basing my campaign on being responsive to the people and being aware of what they need. Now the people have no one to go to," Gonzales said.
Two Council Seats Open
There are also two council seats open in the April 12 election, which pits Councilmen Stanley Quintana and Arthur Olmos against challengers Joe Jauregui, Robert M. Rose and Carmella Montano Hopper.
Quintana, 61, is a barrel dealer who was elected to the council in 1970, recalled in 1977 and elected again in 1984. He declined to be interviewed.
Olmos, 53, is a plant foreman who has lived here for 24 years. He was appointed to the council two years ago to fill a vacancy. He said the city is running well, and that there are no major issues now.
Rose, 61, is a retired contractor who has lived here for 49 years. He has been on the Human Services Commission and now serves as a planning commissioner.
"I am running because we are due for a change," he said. "There are too many people who have been there (on the council) too long who think they own the city. I want to give the city back to the people. We need new blood on the council, and it is time there was someone to represent the people for a change."
Rose said that if elected, he will lobby for better benefits for senior citizens. He said homeowners over age 65 should not have to pay property tax. He would also back city- or school-sponsored on-the-job training for young people.
School Board Member
Jauregui, 47, is an accountant who has lived here for 23 years. He is a member of the Valle Lindo School District board, and said that although he likes serving the school district, he is needed in the city.
"I am running because the two incumbents are not communicating with the people," he said. "They are not doing what is best for the city."
Jauregui said the city, which contracts with the county Sheriff's Department for police protection, needs more law enforcement to combat the increasing drug problem. He also said the city should institute guidelines on rent control, especially for senior citizens, and favors more drug abuse education in the schools.
Hopper, 64, wants to become the first woman to serve on the council. She has lived in South El Monte for 36 years and is retired from her county job as an appointment supervisor for the property tax Assessment Appeals Board. She has served on the Sister City and Planning commissions and the Arts and Culture and Waste-to-Energy committees. She was an unsuccessful candidate for City Council in 1977.
"People want a change on the council," she said. "They are telling me that the council members have been there so long that they are not effective any more. They are slow in getting things done and the situation is stagnant now."
She also said the city needs more police protection and should pay more attention to the needs of senior citizens.
"And it is time for a woman on the council," she said.