The county Elections Division presented the nuts and bolts of running for council, then a panel with experience told about the realities of the position. It included Beverly Lane and Susanna Schlendorf, who were on Danville's first Town Council when it incorporated in 1982; San Ramon City Councilman Scott Perkins; and Lafayette City Councilwoman Carol Federighi, who moderated the discussion.
After the four described the long hours and hard work involved to become elected and then to serve on a council, Lane encouraged people to run.
"I was talking to Susanna and that was one of the most positive memories in our lives - beginning with a clean slate, setting the path for your community," Lane said. "If any of you are wavering, I suggest that you do it. It will be memories you will treasure forever."
The first date to file papers for the Alamo council with the county was Nov. 10 and the deadline is 5 p.m. Dec. 5. Sixteen people had taken out papers to run as of Tuesday, Nov. 25, but no one had filed.
"By default the issue of cityhood becomes part of your own candidacy," said Schlendorf, remembering her campaign in 1982. "It goes beyond the paperwork. Time, money, your family, your work - these are all considerations."
"Then you get up the Wednesday after Election Day and have to put this business into place," she continued. "Everyone who voted for it is counting on you."
She noted that during the campaign it is important to talk to people, especially those with whom you haven't always agreed.
"I had people who didn't want cityhood who supported me," she said.
Perkins elaborated on the role of council members.
"You don't run the city," he said. "You hire three people to do this - the city manager, city attorney and city auditor. You give direction and guidance, and approve the budget."
He also said candidates need to vet themselves before throwing their hat into the ring. "Do you have anything in your past that might come back to haunt you? A DUI?"
Perkins said to develop a theme before starting a campaign - "two or three words that symbolize your campaign so people start to recognize it." He added, "Come out big, bold and ready."
Alamo has about 10,000 voters, he noted, and about half of those will vote. "You're going to kick yourself if you're No. 6," he said.
The difference in votes between the fifth vote-getter and the sixth in the first run for the Danville council was 78 votes, said Lane.
"It was a real heartbreaker for the man who came in sixth," she recalled.
"You need to really care about the community," she added. "You need to enjoy talking to people. You need to enjoy going to meetings."
She also said it's important to be able to read a budget and to be up to speed on the issues.
"People will say, 'Why are you running?' and 'Why are you the best person for the job?'" she said. "You can't go 'mumble, mumble.' ... You need to be articulate what your opinion is."
She also said candidates should carry incorporation campaign brochures as well as their own.
"No one wants to be on a council with no town," she said.
Lane, who is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, pointed out that Alamo has voted on incorporation four times before - once with Danville, and three times with Danville and San Ramon.
Federighi said the first thing a candidate must do is put together a committee, with the treasurer position being the most important. She also said to immediately get endorsements.
"Once I decided to run I knew I didn't want to lose," she recalled. "Out went the 'Dear Friend' letters. ... I always went door to door and almost always they were impressed. It's a chance to learn citizens' concerns and get to know the city."
"Plan on doing nothing else in January and February," advised Lane.
Lane and Schlendorf also talked about developing the government for Danville.
"We were our own planning commission for about six to nine months," said Schlendorf.
"We set up ad hoc committees to deal with things that came up," Lane added. "We started commissions gradually. They are a fairly significant step for a town."
"When Danville was incorporated most of us (on the council) had careers and young families and we managed to do it," said Schlendorf. "With a city manager form of government, they do the day to day."
"I'd look at Danville's budget," suggested Lane. "You need to take the feasibility study seriously. I think you can do a much better job than the county. Some cities are small - you need to look at the resources."
The 16 residents who have taken out papers to run for the Alamo council are Karl Niyati, Joseph Alexander Rubay, Dennis Eugene Johnson, Lawrence G. Kaye, Vishwas D. More, Stephan Alan Mick, Vicki Lee Koc, Edward M. Chiverton, Tejbir S. Khanna, Randall Evan Nahas, David Glenn Bowlby, Karen E. McPherson, Diane M. Barley, Tina Schumann, Bradley Harold Waite and Kevin G. Morrow.
In the March election the two candidates with the most votes will serve four-year terms; the three candidates with the next most votes will serve two-year terms. The council members will choose among themselves for the first mayor, which will be a rotating position.
A Candidate's Handbook is available with details on how to file at www.cocovote.us.