ANTIOCH -- A mix of political veterans and newcomers are vying for two open seats on the City Council this November.
Incumbent Councilwoman Mary Rocha is technically the lone person seeking re-election in this race. Mayor Jim Davis is looking to stay on the City Council but as a council member. The three challengers in the race are Antioch school district trustee Walter Ruehlig, and political newcomers Noel Pinto and Monica Wilson.
There will be at least one new council member, as incumbent Brian Kalinowski is not seeking a fourth term.
Rocha, who was elected in 2008 after an eight-year hiatus from city politics, got back on the council so she could help create job opportunities for Antioch's youth. She hopes to continue that push if re-elected, which she says would reduce crime.
"Unfortunately, my third and fourth year (on the council) were spent trying to save the city and trying to keep the doors open," Rocha said.
Antioch lacks activities such as a Boys & Girls Club and YMCA site, which she says is needed given the city's population of 104,000.
Rocha, 71, who served on the council for eight years before being elected mayor in 1996, hopes that the push to bring industrial-based business to the waterfront area along Wilbur Avenue could help create a foundation that would provide money for family services.
"I want to make sure that when I leave, I leave this city in a better place," she said.
"I've been on the council 14 years. I still want to serve and feel there's a lot more to do," he said, noting that work must still be done to ensure that Highway 4 is completed, the police department is restored to its former staffing levels and enhanced if possible, and that the city stays fiscally solvent.
Davis, 54, points out that his four years as mayor were difficult, as the city saw its budget revenues decline from $47 million to $35 million, but he proudly says he and the council kept the city out of bankruptcy.
Being on the council will also allow him to be "more of a driver" on issues, Davis said.
After eight years on the school board, Ruehlig said he is running for council because of his skills as an interloper, ability to help a group reach a consensus, and follow-through.
Ruehlig, 66, said that addressing public safety and bringing back officers is paramount, but it hinges on the recovery of the city budget. Until budget conditions improve, he says Antioch should focus on doable items such as enacting a daytime curfew ordinance during the school year, increased truancy sweeps and parental fines for suspected gang members to prevent youth crime.
Antioch must also create a more pro-business environment for those trying to get permits or locate in the city, Ruehlig said. It also must see what is working in other cities and whether similar concepts can be applied in Antioch, he said.
Pinto, a city administrator in Oakland, says he's running for office because Antioch has become a "stagnant city," noting a decline in the quality of life and police manpower.
"We need to make some changes. It should be our highest priority," Pinto said, noting it took police 90 minutes to respond to a failed home invasion attempt at his home last year.
Pinto, 55, says he can brings new ideas to the council, along with using his professional connections with investors to help lure businesses to Antioch. He also wants the city manager to create a specific five-year business plan with specific milestones.
One area in particular Pinto wants to revitalize is the downtown.
"If you look at the cities around us, there's so much development. But things here have come to a standstill," he said.
Wilson, a dean's assistant at Mills College, is running because she wants to help put Antioch on the map for positive reasons.
A member of the city's economic development commission, Wilson says Antioch must be more aggressive in bringing in new jobs, especially with the expansion of Highway 4 and extension of BART coming soon.
Wilson, 44, has made a point to attend City Council meetings the past year to help with the learning curve and gain knowledge of current issues.
Antioch must not only find ways to fund more police officers but city workers in other departments, she said. "I'm tired of hearing the city doesn't have any money," said Wilson, adding that the city must try to actively find and apply for alternative funding such as grants.
Wilson also says Antioch leaders must find a way to instill more community pride, possibly even a civic event that showcases the city to the rest of the state or world.
"Now is the time to come together, whether people have lived here for 50 years, or 10 years. We can all work together to make Antioch strong," she said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.