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Local Elections : Walnut Campaigns Show Much Civility, Little Disagreement


WALNUT — In an election devoid of mudslinging and negative advertisements, each of the five candidates for City Council is politely trying to carve out his identity.

That may be hard to do. All the candidates--Mayor Drexel Smith, Greg Arakelian, Dr. William Choctaw, Bernard (Joe) Margowsky and Dave Weigand--say they want to control residential development, preserve the equestrian atmosphere of Walnut and bring more businesses to the city. At a candidates' forum last month, there weren't any heated arguments, and the five often echoed each others' positions.

"There aren't really any killer issues," Weigand said recently.

In fact, the only controversy that surfaced was in the form of a press release mailed to local newspapers by Arakelian's campaign manager disputing Choctaw's claims that Mt. San Antonio College's bookstore is the largest generator of sales tax revenue in the city.

Candidates prefer to quietly emphasize their differences. Mayor Smith, who is seeking a third term, said that after the election, at least three council members will have less than a year of experience and the city would need someone with his extensive background.

"I'm the only candidate that really has the . . . experience," Smith said. Smith, an executive with Wyle Laboratories, a high-technology research firm, has been on the council since 1982 and served as planning commissioner from 1979-82. His fellow council members have elected him mayor three times.

Arakelian, a partner in an Irvine architectural firm, said his interest in city government began earlier this year when city residents successfully fought a plan to build a chemical storage and distribution plant in Industry, near the Walnut city border. Arakelian participated in a citizens' group that lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the fire marshal against the proposal.

Choctaw said that because of his experience as planning commissioner, "I'm more qualified that the others are, with the exception of Mayor Smith. Drexel and I are the best candidates for the job. We know what the city needs."

At the candidates' forum, he said Walnut's future economic woes could be solved if a University of California campus were located in the city, possibly near Mt. San Antonio College. He said the largest portion of the city's sales tax revenue comes from Mt. SAC's bookstore, and he supports the concept of a "university park" where resources and facilities would be shared by a number of colleges.

Margowsky, president of Aims Marketing Inc. in San Dimas, said because of his background in business and management, "bottom-line budgeting is something I've had to deal with for a long time."

Margowsky said that if elected, he would exercise greater control over residential development in the city and call for a temporary moratorium on the construction of new homes. He said he has received calls from several homeowners complaining about haphazard development in Walnut that wasn't closely scrutinized while in the planning stages.

Weigand, who works in the maintenance department of the Fullerton Union High School District, said he wants to continue the good work the city has done and would encourage citizens to get involved in volunteer work. He is a member of Walnut's emergency response team, belongs to the Elks Club and is a trustee of the Walnut United Methodist Church.

"I really believe this is a good community," he said. "And I'm a firm believer in community service."

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