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Francis Expected to Serve as Mayor, Council Poll Finds : Ventura Politics: Donald Villeneuve, the other leading contender, says he is not a candidate for the largely ceremonial post.


City Councilman Richard Francis is expected to be chosen as the next mayor of Ventura when three new slow-growth council members take their seats early next month, according to a Times poll of council members.

The chances that the seven-member council will select

Francis were increased this week when Councilman Donald Villeneuve, the other leading contender for the job, said he is not a candidate for the largely ceremonial post.

Villeneuve said he seriously considered running, but believes that the job would take too much time away from his duties teaching human anatomy and environmental science at Ventura College.

"I've agonized a great deal over this in the last two weeks," Villeneuve said. "I was looking at it in terms of whether or not I could influence the direction of the council more as a mayor than a councilman.

"At this point, I'm not really interested," Villeneuve said. "It isn't going to make a lot of difference whether it's Richard or me, and there's a certain amount of inflexibility in my schedule."

Francis, 41, a Ventura lawyer who was elected to the council in 1987, would succeed Mayor Jim Monahan, who was reelected to the council this month, but who is barred from succeeding himself by city ordinance.

John McWherter, the council's fourth incumbent, has already served one term as mayor, and said he has no interest in the job.

McWherter and two of the three newly elected council members, Todd Collart and Cathy Bean, expressed tentative support for Francis in interviews this week. Councilman-elect Gary Tuttle said he will go along with any arrangement reached by Francis and Villeneuve.

While the mayor's responsibilities in Ventura consist mainly of running council meetings, the mayor also sometimes functions as chief spokesman for the city.

Monahan, just back from a vacation in Tahiti, said he has not yet decided whom he will support.

"I've enjoyed the job and it's an honor to have it," Monahan said. "But it's a very time-consuming job. I wouldn't want to do it again."

Francis, initially reluctant to discuss his interest in the job, acknowledged this week that he has been actively seeking support from other council members.

"It's the pinnacle of public service in the city," he said. "The ceremonial part of the job is very important."

Francis expressed cautious optimism about his chances when told of the comments by McWherter and Villeneuve.

"At this point it looks reassuring," he said. "But it's not over until it's over."

Collart, Tuttle and Bean will take their council seats after being sworn in Dec. 4. At that time, the council will elect a mayor to preside over regular meetings, as well as a deputy mayor.

Council sources said Villeneuve is a likely candidate to succeed Councilman Bill Crew as deputy mayor if Francis is chosen as mayor. Crew, whose term in office is expiring, did not seek reelection this year.

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