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Water Tank Rupture Has Mayoral Hopefuls Debating

October 24, 1998|HARRISON SHEPPARD

The 5-million-gallon water tank on Hefley Street that ruptured last month did more than devastate a neighborhood.

It also shook up a sleepy mayor's race in Westminster, giving a challenger ammunition to fire at the two political institutions he is facing in the Nov. 3 election.

John G. Stupar, a political newcomer, is taking an aggressive stance on the water issue in his bid to beat out incumbent Mayor Frank Fry Jr. and Councilwoman Joy L. Neugebauer, who together have 50 years' experience on the council.

Also appearing on the mayoral ballot, but not actively campaigning, are Councilwoman Marge Shillington, who dropped out of the race for family health reasons, and Chuyen Nguyen, who did not respond to repeated phone calls and did not show up at a recent candidates forum.

Stupar blames the water disaster on the incumbents, saying they should have privatized the water system when the issue came up two years ago.

At a candidates forum Tuesday, Stupar said the rupture was "a result of irresponsible leadership and poor management decisions." When audience members--many of them loyal to his rivals--booed, Stupar shouted back: "It's the truth, and you can't handle the truth!"

But both Fry and Neugebauer, who oppose privatization, shook off his comments as political posturing from a novice.

"When you don't have a strong political background of your own, you attack others with no regard to whether things are valid or not," said Neugebauer in an interview. She noted that a study commissioned by the city in 1996 found that all needed repairs could be made without raising water rates or privatization.

Fry said the tank would still have ruptured whether it was controlled by the city or a company.

The water system was the issue that first got Fry into local politics in the 1960s and 1970s, he said. At that time, the city's water system was run by a company, and he had to go to Washington to lobby for money to help the city buy back control. The city then had to rebuild the entire system, he said.

Stupar, 50, teaches business ethics at Hope International University, formerly Pacific Christian College, in Fullerton. Before joining the faculty he spent 20 years working in engineering and business management with Hughes aircraft company, GTE and Bell Telephone.

Neugebauer, 70, ran Ace Tool Co. in Long Beach for 37 years before selling it in 1992. She is now director of the Westminster Museum and has been on the council on and off since 1968.

Fry, 73, is a retired Vons grocery store manager. He has been on the council since 1966, except for 1980-84, and served one previous term for mayor, in 1976-78.

Tuesday night's forum with the mayoral and City Council candidates will air on local cable Channel 6 at 11 a.m. Monday and Nov. 1.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Westminster Candidates

There are four candidates for mayor of Westminster on the Nov. 3 ballot. A fifth, City Councilwoman Marge Shillington, has dropped out of the race. There are eight candidates seeking two seats on the City Council.

MAYOR

Frank Fry Jr.

Age: 73

Occupation: Retired grocery manager

Background: Incumbent; council member, 1966-1980 and 1984-present; mayor, 1976-78 and 1996-present; member, Lions and Elks clubs, Masonic Lodge, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion

Issues: Opposes privatization of water system; favors cultural arts center but thinks latest building estimates are too high; wants to develop Little Saigon as tourist spot, including bringing in a hotel and new parking structure

Joy L. Neugebauer

Age: 70

Occupation: Executive director, Westminster Museum; ran tool company for 37 years before selling in 1992

Background: Incumbent council member, served 1968-80, 1984-92, 1996-present; mayor three times; board treasurer, Delta Savings Bank, seven years; former president of five school PTAs; past board member, Boys & Girls Club

Issues: Wants to improve infrastructure by studying how water revenue is used and possibly using more of it for system improvements; opposes water privatization; wants to maintain police and fire protection levels

Chuyen Nguyen

Age: 49

Occupation: Marketing consultant

Background: Born in Vietnam; was South Vietnamese Air Force pilot; came to Westminster in 1978; worked in aerospace industry; publisher and editor of Tieng-Chuong Newspaper; involved in Vietnamese-American Voters Coalition and Vietnamese Community of Southern California

Issues: Wants to make city safer, cleaner, more beautiful

John G. Stupar

Age: 50

Occupation: Business ethics professor

Background: Master's degree in business administration; worked for 20 years in business and engineering with Hughes aircraft, GTE and Bell Telephone; past Westminster traffic commissioner; Promise Keeper; member, Christian Business Men's Committee

Issues: Favors privatizing water system; wants to run city like a business; opposes business license tax

CITY COUNCIL

Robert Crossley

Age: 62

Occupation: Retired manager for U.S. Air Force aerospace contracts (civilian)

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