Gwen Forsythe was recently chosen by her colleagues on the Seal Beach City Council to serve as mayor, her third one-year term in the position since her election to the council in 1990. She took office that year as part of a slow-growth majority that reversed the previous council's approval of Mola Development Corp.'s plans for the 329-home Hellman Ranch development. She recently helped negotiate a 66-home development for the property. Forsythe, 41, a 15-year resident of Seal Beach, owns and operates a sign company with her husband, Riley. She spoke recently with Times correspondent Russ Loar.
Q: What are the major issues ahead for Seal Beach?
A: Everybody you talk to from any city is going to say the budget. That's going to be the major concern of every city as long as counties and states continue to reduce the sources of revenue that help cities survive.
Q: What are the particular financial challenges that Seal Beach faces?
A: Within the last five years the city of Seal Beach has lost approximately $2.1 million in previously received revenue from the county and the state, and we have had to find the means to replace that in order to continue to provide the level of service that the residents have been accustomed to. The most important element of any city is providing public safety.
Q: Some residents have called for the elimination of the city's 11% utility tax and suggested that Seal Beach contract with the county Sheriff's Department for police services. What do you think of that proposal?
A: I don't think it would fly in Seal Beach. Residents have a certain sense of security in having their own police department. There's a comfort factor in having a familiar face, in having officers who are familiar with the city's hot spots. And there's an element of efficiency that goes along with that familiarity.
Q: With the withdrawal of the Bixby Ranch Co.'s proposed 223-home development, how do you see the prospects for maintaining what you have called the city's small-town atmosphere?
A: We've come full circle with many of those who were skeptics before, that bigger is not always better, that 300 to 400 homes in our community would not generate revenue; it would be a drain on city services. I didn't move to Seal Beach to change it. The people who move here, who love and take care of this town, realize that it is the small-town, family atmosphere that makes us a special place.