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DanvilleSanRamon.com

Cover Story - January 9, 2009

Alamo at the crossroads: Meet the candidates

16 people are running to be on the first Town Council in Alamo

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli and Geoff Gillette

On March 3, Alamo residents will make two major decisions: Should Alamo incorporate to become a town? And, who should serve on the first Town Council?

Here we present brief profiles on the 16 candidates for the five council seats. Some of the names are well known to people in Alamo. Others have decided to become involved now as their community contemplates this important step in determining its future.

A Council Candidates Faire is being held from 7-9 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 22, a chance for residents to meet the 16 people who are running for council and learn more about their positions on incorporation and other issues. The event is being held at the Alamo Women's Club, 1401 Danville Blvd., sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Alamo Chamber of Commerce and the Alamo Community Foundation.

Diane Barley

A former president of the Alamo Improvement Association, Diane Barley has spent a number of years working with Alamo residents in various capacities, which makes her accessible, a quality she feels is important in a council member.

Barley said she believes a Town Council of Alamo residents would be preferable to management by the county. Although she does not feel the county has done a bad job, a council would have more input from residents and move more quickly. "One of the things I hear about now is the no turn on red (Danville Boulevard/Stone Valley Road). I'm sure some traffic engineer in Martinez made that decision. He doesn't live in Alamo."

Barley and her husband have lived in seven different houses in Alamo during the last 30 years, so she's familiar with many neighborhoods. She thinks the town's density rules could be mitigated slightly in places to allow for smaller homes and more manageable lots for residents who want to downsize.

Barley, who works afternoons as a personal banker at Bank of America in Alamo, said she was asked to run for Town Council because of her work in the community. "I've been involved for a long time and want to be there for the long haul," she said. Although people complain about the traffic, she says, "I think Alamo is a pretty nice place. I call it Camelot myself."

More about the candidate: Married, two grown sons; BA and graduate work; banker at Alamo B of A; president of Alamo Rotary, Alamo Improvement Association (AIA), Monte Vista PTA; Friends of Discovery; Zone 36 Alamo Landscape and Lighting District; Alamo Merchant and Professional Association (AMPA); Citizen of the Year; Business Person of the Month

Web site: DianeBarley.com

Bob Connelly

Bob Connelly is a retired commercial banker and currently president of the Alamo Oaks Homeowners Association. For most of his 19 years in Alamo he was content to allow the county to provide services and saw no need for incorporation. However in the past few years that position has changed.

"I began to be concerned with what was happening two or three years ago," he said. He pointed to two large housing developments on Stone Valley Road that went against current zoning, with residents getting little say in the process.

He also concluded that Alamo could stand alone financially and that it is an insignificant part of the responsibility of the five County Supervisors. "I strongly believe that the best form of government is that closest to the people," he said. He joined the Alamo Incorporation Movement and this involvement led him to believe that he could serve a role on the new Town Council.

"I believe I have a lot of experience to help get this town off on the right foot," he said, adding that he is interested in serving only one term.

Connelly, 70, has 34 years of banking experience, has served on a volunteer fire department in Southern California and was a founding director of the Bell Canyon Special Services District in Southern California.

His priorities would be to maintain the integrity of Alamo and to establish sound fiscal policies.

More about the candidate: Married, three children; Alamo Community Foundation; signature committee for Alamo Incorporation Movement (AIM); chief, Redhill Volunteer Fire Department (Orange County); chairman, Banking Administration Institute, Banking School at University of Wisconsin; Kiwanian of the Year in Orange County club as well as Kiwanis Outstanding Service Award.

Web site: www.BobConnelly.org

Dennis Johnson

Maintaining the rural quality of Alamo is important to Dennis Johnson. A commercial developer, Johnson said he has had a great deal of experience with governments and land use issues and he wants to use that experience to help preserve the town.

Although he and his family are relative newcomers to Alamo, he said they chose the community with great care after deciding to move to the Bay Area. "We could have lived anywhere in the world and we chose to come to Alamo and we wanted to keep it just like it is," he said.

A cautious supporter of incorporation, Johnson said he's talked to many residents with strong doubts. "Their concern is that over half of the ballot positions are filled with either officers or associates of the incorporation movement who they think may want to advance a single agenda. So I would be concerned about incorporating for the wrong reasons."

No stranger to small town government, Johnson served on both the city Planning Commission and Budget Advisory Commission for Clyde Hill, Wash., before moving to Alamo. Johnson said during his tenure they were able to lower taxes three times. Now he wants to bring that experience to Alamo. "I would like to use my considerable municipal budget experience to see the city establish a conservative fiscal policy," he said. "Including a policy that reserve funds are set aside for the purpose of lowering taxes."

More about the candidate: Married, with 8-year-old twins; University of Washington college of Architecture and Urban Planning; Planning Commission, Budget Advisory Committee in Clyde Hill, Wash.; Bellevue Boys and Girls Club board of directors; Little League coach

Web site: www.johnson4council.blogspot.com/

Vicki Koc

Web site: www.vickikoc.com

During her 28 years in Alamo, Vicki Koc has become well known among residents for her involvement in the community. Currently president of the Alamo Incorporation Movement, Koc has served in several capacities in civic groups that include the Alamo Road Improvement Committee and San Ramon Valley Education Foundation.

While her primary goal is to see Alamo become a town, Koc said she is running for Town Council because she feels the experience of shepherding the incorporation process has given her unique insights into what comes next. "I want to make sure the new town starts out on a strong footing. And having that knowledge of all the different things that go into it that we've looked at and researched, it makes sense," she said. "I'm very goal-oriented, and I can usually bring people together to work together."

She lists another asset as being forward thinking, looking two to six months down the road.

Koc said that her time spent on incorporation petition drives and public hearings makes her uniquely qualified and has given her a strong understanding of what residents want to see happen there.

"Because I've done all these things I've met a lot of people within the Alamo community and I think I've got a pretty good ear for what they want," she said.

This includes keeping intact the scenic beauty of Alamo, giving the town a voice on regional boards, and letting Alamo make its own decisions.

More about the candidate: BA Cal State University East Bay; founder of AIM; member of R7A Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee, Zone 36, Road Improvement Committee; president, Diablo Valley National Charity League; president, Alamo School PTA, on boards at Stone Valley Middle School, Monte Vista High

Web site: www.vickikoc.com

Karen McPherson

Candidate Karen McPherson feels that her knowledge of Alamo's recent history gives her a solid footing on where the town should go in the future. "I think that it is time for Alamo to incorporate," she said. "The county does a nice job for us. But in the county we have one supervisor who cares about us and four who don't even know us."

"I just want to make sure the community has a voice in everything that happens in their town," she said. "It's time." She said some changes - such as the parking lot at Monte Vista High - would probably have been done better under local governance, and permission would not have been given to cut down the trees in front of Yardbirds because local leaders would have known they were part of the Boulevard of Trees project.

McPherson, who has been on a number of committees in the last 19 years, says she understands concerns with incorporation "I think the main concern is the financial aspect of it. Nobody wants more taxes so we need to do everything lowkey and conservatively."

She says she would work on the council to create compromise. "I'm effective at getting all groups to work together," she said. "On the Regional Planning Commission sometimes we have real strong voices either way and I think I can come up with workable compromises that are agreeable for everyone and don't polarize either side."

More about the candidate: Married; BA San Jose State; National Zoning Manager in Telecommunications; R7A, San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission, AMPA, Alamo Rotary; worked in Supervisor Donna Gerber's office as community liaison for Alamo.

Steve Mick

Steve Mick has spent the last years working on a number of organizations in Alamo and is a strong advocate of incorporation. While he wants to see Alamo become a town, he is not in favor of sweeping changes. "My core philosophy is that I am an Agent of Minimal Change," he said. "I'm not against change. I just want it to be measured and reasonable."

A retired computer specialist from Livermore Lab, Mick said he feels that most residents want the town to remain basically what it is now, a semi-rural community. "Take a look at the way Alamo looks now and what we want it to look like in the future and those should look the same."

He feels that incorporation would give Alamo a better sense of community. For instance, Scout troops could open meetings of the Town Council. As a council member, Mick said he would advocate keeping the various committees already in existence, and he would like to see a lot of residents involved in new fun events.

Mick said his time working on community projects has given him the tools to be a strong member of the first council and the job would be a natural extension of what he has been doing. "As far as I know, I'm seen as a consensus builder. I have knowledge and experience in the way government works, and I can run a heck of a meeting."

More about the candidate: U.S. Navy, 1965-69; Alamo resident with wife since 1989; Alamo Parks Committee, Alamo Beautification Advisory Committee; Hap Magee Ranch Park Joint Planning and Operations Committee; Veterans Memorial Building Development Committee of San Ramon Valley; AIA; Alamo Community Council (ACC); Viet Nam Veterans of Diablo Valley; Exchange Club of San Ramon Valley; Blackhawk Museum Docent & Guild Member; Wheelchair Foundation; Leadership Diablo graduate; Diablo A's Model A Ford Club.

Web site: www.stevemick.org

Vishwas More

Vishwas More has been involved in Alamo Rotary and local activities since he and his wife moved to Alamo from Orinda 10 years ago, after their four children were grown.

"I want to keep the town as it is - a town for families and grandchildren," he said. He says the most important issues are public safety, roads and parks, pedestrian walkways, and maintaining public areas. He wants a solution for the traffic problems on Danville Boulevard rather than continuing with trial and error.

More is a retired engineer/manager at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and was president and financial budget chairman of the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges. He said these roles have given him the expertise to analyze and solve the complex issues Alamo will face after it incorporates.

"With the amount of taxes we collect, we should be able to handle ourselves," said More. "We have to make sure we stay within our budget."

More, who describes himself as "a people person," feels it is important to listen to what other people have to say. "The elected people are responsible to the people of Alamo," he said. "The key thing is find out the facts first. Do the work and fact-find. And listen to both sides."

"I want to give thanks to the U.S.A.," he added, "to put something back into the community."

More about the candidate: BS, MS mechanical engineering, University of Michigan; project engineer at Argonne National Laboratory, University of Chicago; appointed by California governor as Student Aid Commissioner, President; board of International Education Corp.; trustee, Cal State East Bay for Education Foundation; AIM; treasurer, Alamo Rotary; volunteer Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek

Web site: www.votevishmore.com

John Morrow

John Morrow, who worked for U.S. Steel, Standard Oil of Ohio and British Petroleum, and owned two small businesses, wants to bring his knowledge to the table to help run the new town of Alamo. He believes no one should make a dishonest gain in government, and he would like to help prevent this. He says he could hold the line on spending in Alamo with the expertise he gained from the years he spent doing competitive bidding.

Now a widower, Morrow and his wife moved to Alamo 30 years ago and raised three sons here. He says he "is not in great favor of incorporation" but he respects those who are. "A lot of problems are in the eyes of the beholder," he said. "A lot of people would like to have more control." He likes having no sidewalks and no streetlights in Alamo, the better to enjoy the stars.

"I can't believe all these rosy scenarios in Alamo," he noted, referring to predictions of financial security in the new town while the county, state and federal government are all in dire straits. Nonetheless, he stated, "Anything is viable if it is done right. We can do anything we set our hearts and minds to."

"I've been about teamwork my whole career," said Morrow, 74, and he foresees the new Town Council coming together for the good of the community.

More about the candidate: Raised in Kittaning, Penn. Graduated from U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, then transferred to U.S. Air Force; served in Korean and Vietnam wars. Also attended Penn State. Engineering manager on larger construction projects. Has volunteered in churches, Scouts, Indian Guides, YMCA and at the schools.

Kevin Morrow

Kevin Morrow, 37, an insurance agent, knew he wanted to run for Town Council the minute he heard incorporation was on the ballot. "I want to help ensure that we will have a responsible government in place," he said.

He has lived in Alamo the last 30 years. "I was a Boy Scout, graduated from high school here, and know the town intimately," he said. "I have a vested interest in the future of Alamo."

Morrow said he knows about getting things done on a limited budget, both in his job and in his personal life, and that his character is one of the best things he would bring to the council. "Responsibility is the key for me," he said.

He was against incorporation in the beginning but the more he learns, the more it looks feasible. "I believe we are going to incorporate and I want to make sure we're responsible," he said. "Alamo is limited in size and I want to make sure we don't bite off more than we can chew." He has found residents concerned about raising taxes and wants to make sure this isn't necessary.

He started a hauling business with his brothers when he was 13 and said, "I know how businesses succeed." He said the priority for the council will be the General Plan to be used for a solid plan of action.

More about the candidate: Attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. Works as an insurance agent with licenses in fire/casualty with State of California. Has received public speaking awards; named Student of the Month by Alamo Rotary.

Randy Nahas

Randy Nahas recalls meeting a few years ago with folks who'd been involved with Clayton's vote to incorporate in 1964.

"They said the best way to get it to pass is to run," remembered Nahas, 59. And so he is.

Nahas, who grew up in Piedmont, has lived in Alamo for 28 years with his wife Jan, and they raised their four sons here. "People want a back-to-basics lifestyle," he said. He works in property management, is a general contractor, real estate broker and Realtor.

"Basically Alamo is a bedroom community with two poorly maintained off-ramps between Walnut Creek and Danville," he said, and he thinks it needs its own government. "You don't have 'county fathers,' you have 'city fathers.'"

Nahas said the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis proves that Alamo has the assets to be incorporated and he would like to help build Alamo into a financially stable contract town.

"Let's keep the money at home and see what we can do with it," he said. He believes that if Alamo were a town, its residents would gain more of a pride of community, which is especially important for healthy children.

The incorporation of Alamo is more important than his race for council, says Nahas, but if elected he sees himself as a consensus builder.

"I have a vision I would share with the others," he said.

More about the candidate: BS mechanical engineering, UC Davis; former board member International House at Berkeley, San Ramon Valley YMCA, Mt. Diablo Region YMCA, SRV Little League, SRV YMCA Facilities Committee Chairman, YMCA Theater Committee Chair; R7A; Alamo Roads Committee; Hap Magee Park JPO; Facilities Committees SRVUSD; project leader Tassajara 4-H; 4-H All Star Advisor.

Karl Niyati

Karl Niyati is known in Alamo as a soccer coach, both for Al Caffodio and Monte Vista High, and for the Alamo Creek restaurant he opened on his downtown property after he retired from hospital administration.

"I opened the restaurant to give back," he said. And with incorporation a possibility, he wants to give back by serving on Alamo's first Town Council. He favors incorporation but says with the economic downturn it is important to validate the financial figures.

He noted that Alamo money is currently going to the county and, if incorporated, Alamo could do a better job with it. "Alamo people want to make decisions for themselves," he said.

"Council members have to run the city as a successful business," he said. "The mayor is the CEO; the residents are stockholders." He looks forward to recruiting creative individuals to serve as city manager, attorney and in finance, and to negotiating the best services.

He would like to see townhouses available for older folks who want to stay in town but downsize after their families are raised. He also wants to see activities for young people at the parks and schools. "We have to coordinate our services," he added.

One priority if elected would be to work with the other council members and with residents to identify the services required and establish a budget accordingly.

More about the candidate: MBA Economics, MPH Health Care Administration, USC; Lifetime Teaching Credential; retired management consultant for own firm; Retired Kaiser Hospital financial and administration 25 years; former UC instructor, soccer coach, restaurant owner

Web site: niyatialamocouncil.com/

Joe Rubay

Joe Rubay is a real estate appraiser and former CPA who is looking to run for Alamo Town Council to help keep an eye on the bottom line and because he feels a passion for politics. "My hobby is politics," he said. "I think it's my hobby because I love people, I like to be involved with the news, I like to affect change." He also ran in the Republican primaries to represent Assembly District 15.

The 49-year-old resident has lived most of the last 35 years in Alamo, and bought his family home to stay in town. He is a CSU East Bay graduate in business administration and has a keen interest in the financial end of getting the town of Alamo off the ground. "I have a lot of analytical skills. And I'm fiscally conservative." Rubay said his role on a new Town Council would be as "a watchdog."

"Alamo is growing, but we need to be smart government," he said. He sees public safety as the No. 1 concern and thinks police services could probably be improved.

On the issue of the incorporation itself, Rubay said he is cautiously in favor. "I have some reservations. Things are working great the way they are. We have a great supervisor." However he said he also sees the need for a local government to give residents their own voice in the decisions that will affect Alamo in the future.

More about the candidate: Treasurer, Alamo Improvement Association; Contra Costa Fair Board Director; National Director of Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance; member of Sheriff's Posse

Grace Schmidt

Grace Schmidt, 68, has worked as staff for many years for public officials, including as field representative in the 10th Congressional District and for supervisors in Marin and Santa Clara counties.

"I have a knowledge of government," she said. "My career has been working in government."

Schmidt, a fifth-generation Californian who grew up in El Cerrito, has lived in Alamo with her husband Smitty for 23 years except for a three-year sojourn in Europe. In her retirement, she became active in Alamo, through joining the Alamo Improvement Association three years ago and the Alamo Community Foundation. After studying the issues and writing about them for Alamo Today and writing press releases and Web site information for ACF, she feels ready to work on the new Town Council.

Schmidt wants Alamo to incorporate so its residents can make their own decisions. "Alamo needs a seat at the table of jurisdictional bodies," she said, "and I know a lot about it." She believes in doing outreach and getting everybody to the table. "I like to hear different opinions."

She is optimistic about Alamo's financial situation, noting that it would benefit from increased property taxes as homes are sold to new owners. Of the last 50 homes sold in Alamo, she said, 34 increased in valuation by half a million dollars. "I believe there are enough resources," she said.

More about the candidate: BA in biological science, UC Berkeley; master's in community organization and social planning, UC Berkeley; staff to local and national public officials; board member, AIA; writer and researcher, AIA monthly page in Alamo Today and for Alamo Community Foundation; member AIM Election Committee; researched and got word out on county's proposed "Ultimate Configuration" for the Stone Valley Road/Danville Boulevard intersection.

Web site: graceforalamo.org

Roger Smith

Roger Smith has spent the last 12 years on the Alamo Improvement Association's Planning Committee, eight of those as chairman, and has been on its board for 15 years. Now, the Alamo business owner is setting his sights on Town Council. "I feel I have a body of knowledge and a body of work that makes me a strong candidate."

Smith has said he is not opposed to incorporation, but he isn't certain it is the correct path for Alamo at this time. "A number of Alamo residents believe in less government, not more government. I know I am carefully reviewing all of the information available before I make a final decision," he stated.

If Alamo becomes a town March 3, Smith said he feels the new Town Council must reach out to residents. "It will need to be inclusive and work to resolve any remaining divisiveness." He sees himself as a calming influence on the council who could keep people focused on the issues. He wants to keep existing organizations intact because their members have gained a lot of experience serving Alamo.

Smith said the council will also have to soon address how the new town will repay the $3 million owed to the county in the revenue neutrality agreement. "We will need to take steps to determine how best to make that payment. I would prefer to pay it off in steps."

More about the candidate: BA degree in business administration, finance and management; business owner; 15-year resident of Alamo; two grown children were raised in Alamo; coached numerous youth teams; served on Round Hill Country Club Swim Team Board

Web site: SmithAlamo.org

Brad Stribling

Brad Stribling, a retired electronics executive, said he wants to use his leadership skills and financial experience to establish the new town of Alamo.

"If incorporation succeeds, I would like ... to have a voice," said Stribling, 63. He wants to help the new Town Council work together to put the appropriate services in place.

"Alamo will need to define itself," he said. "What is its view of itself? It has to get clarification."

Stribling sees Alamo's natural beauty as its core, along with non-crowded residences and businesses.

"I'm an outdoorsman," he said. "I would like to see extended parks. I would like to see Alamo be the garden spot of Contra Costa County."

He said the new Town Council members will need to immediately begin to get to know one another and form a cohesive team, which will define action items and parcel them out. He says he has the skill set to help the council members bond, explaining, "Sometimes that doesn't just happen."

Stribling and his wife Winnie built their home in Alamo 24 years ago and raised their son and daughter here. He said that in his retirement he has given back to his community, particularly through his Alamo church. Now he wants to serve the town of Alamo in its formative years, working to maintain the quality of life "while maintaining taxes at responsibly low levels."

More about the candidate: BSEE, MSEE UC Berkeley, MBA Stanford Business School; enjoys backpacking, performing arts, family, people; recently retired electronics executive; has led several companies and technology groups; helped rebuild homes of Katrina victims; holds several patents in areas of technology

Brad Waite

Brad Waite, who has lived in Alamo for 17 years, has been a quiet force in the Alamo Improvement Association. Over the past 10 years, the 48-year-old resident has worked in a number of positions within the AIA and is currently serving as its president. "The pulse of the community is AIA," he said.

Waite said he knew early in the incorporation effort that the town was fiscally viable and that creating a government to use those local dollars was a solid plan. "It is time for Alamo to take control of those decisions and make them for ourselves," he said.

He noted that as a town, Alamo would have a seat on regional committees. "We can make noise but we need a seat at the table," he said.

Waite said that one of the big issues that will face the new Alamo council is the town's budget. "With a $3 million debt I think setting a very tight budget is the top priority," he said. "Go into savings mode until we get our feet on the ground."

Another concern would be downtown traffic. He advocates keeping Danville Boulevard as it is and not widening the lanes.

Waite said besides his financial background he brings good negotiating skills to the council. "I think I'm good at compromising. I never go into a decision without looking at all sides," he said.

More about the candidate: Married with three children; active with children's sports; BA's in business economics and psychology UC Santa Barbara; president, Mortgage Banking; Zone 36; AIA

Comments

Posted by Louise Buriss, a resident of Alamo
on Jan 12, 2009 at 9:41 am


[Post removed due to excessive and/or repetitive post by same poster]