For the first time in eight years, the current mayor of La Verne faces an opponent in the mayoral election March 7.
Don Kendrick, mayor of La Verne, and Tim Hepburn, city council member and businessman, are running for mayor. The city of La Verne will hold a general municipal election to fill the position of mayor, a two-year term and two city council slots, which are four year terms.
Before Kendrick served four terms as mayor, he served more than six years on the Planning Commission and four years as a city council member. He also served for 22 years on the Youth and Family Action Committee, which creates programs for at-risk youth. Kendrick is also on the Los Angeles County Sanitation District.
Hepburn has served on the city council since 2015. Before then, he served on a Planning Commission for more than three years.
Kendrick first ran for mayor after Jon Blickenstaff retired, beginning his first term after the start of the Great Recession. He said that his biggest struggle was maintaining the services La Verne residents have come to expect with less money due to the economy.
“Our workforce dropped by at least 10 percent, but one of the things that I’m very proud of is that we did not terminate any employees,” Kendrick said.
“We did a lot of incentive early retirement, so we could pay a little, they could go on the retirement system. The city wasn’t paying for it, so we reduced our workforce in a way that we did everything we could not to disrupt our services.”
Hepburn cited the financial costs of the early retirement incentives as one of the pertinent issues facing La Verne.
“I think we have some financial deficits that I’m concerned about,” Hepburn said. “We have some items that are administered by (Public Employees Retirement System) that are special benefits to a number of retirees. Basically the funds continually go up, and it’s hard to make a budget to keep it consistent, with the PERS going up and not knowing what they are.”
The financial deficits will impact other issues La Verne will face, Hepburn said.
“Our biggest problem is that with these structural financial deficits, our community’s going to grow,” Hepburn said. “We need to put more firemen, more police, more public service, and more public works, and our city is going to be taxed for that. We need to make sure we are financially ready to have that next growth of our community.”
Kendrick sees economic growth within the La Verne community as a result of the end of the Great Recession.
“We’ve had a great comeback,” Kendrick said. “Our vacancy rate on Foothill Boulevard is down to 6 percent. It was way over 10 percent during the economic downturn, probably closer to 15 percent, now it’s come back, we’re down to 6. We’re improving as we speak.”
Kendrick hopes to continue working with the city manager and department heads and use the yearly series updates that the department heads provide to formulate policy. Hepburn wants to use the results of a consultation study that compares La Verne’s public services to those of other communities to formulate policy and insure the fair pay of public employees.
Neither Kendrick nor Hepburn believes that La Verne should be declared a sanctuary city.
“Sanctuary cities is obviously a very hot topic today.” Kendrick said. “I grew up in an area where we had lots of Latinos. I didn’t know that there was a difference between us. I still don’t. Immigration is a touchy situation. When I was growing up, we had lots of workers that may or may not have come legally into this country. When somebody enters this country, and they are law-abiding, they’re productive, and they’re helping their families, I want them to stay. When you have somebody here illegally, who’s breaking the law, I want them to leave. I want them deported. I don’t think a non-law abiding non-citizen should be in this country, because it hurts our economy, it hurts our prisons, and we’re paying for it, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
“I think we need to be very careful with that,” Hepburn said. “I’m a product of immigration myself, my (mother’s) family was from Sicily, and my father’s parents were from Scotland and Germany. When it comes to immigration and criminals, I have an issue with that. (Criminals) should not be allowed. As far as immigration, if they’re properly here, I have no problem with it whatsoever. As far as a sanctuary city, we really have to look deeply into that. It costs the city a lot. Our current president is looking very deeply into that, as far as cutting off funding. We’d have to be very careful with that.”
Monday is the last day to register to vote in the March 7 election. More information can be found at the city of La Verne’s website, www.ci.la-verne.ca.us.
Aryn Plax can be reached at email@example.com.