BRENTWOOD -- Although City Council candidates agree that Brentwood is in better shape than many neighboring cities, keeping that progress going and making continued improvements in economic development, fiscal sustainability, public safety and amenities are the focus of the November election.
Brentwood Vice Mayor Steve Barr is challenging incumbent Bob Taylor for the mayor seat. Meanwhile, incumbents Erick Stonebarger and Bob Brockman are both running for another term alongside former council member Chris Becnel, Liberty Union High School District Assistant Superintendent Gene Clare and newcomer Carissa Pillow.
If elected, Pillow would be the first woman to serve on the council since 2006. She became involved in local politics as a vocal opponent of the proposed big box store in north Brentwood.
"We have a really smart community and they will choose the right people," said the critical care nurse who works at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. "It (council) doesn't reflect the diversity of the population."
Stonebarger, a fourth-generation Brentwood farmer, hopes that it will be a lively election with a lot of public participation and voter forums to discuss the issues.
"People need to get involved and ask questions," he said.
Calling himself the most fiscally conservative councilman, Stonebarger said that he has been historically against high-density affordable housing projects and the large size of the new City
"It will be an issue this year for the election that people are going to target," said Stonebarger, who would rather see that money spent on more police and parks.
As an avid runner, Clare said that he is the only candidate "running" for office while he continues to dash through community events like the CornFest. If elected, he would focus on revamping north Brentwood, improving year-round access to the Sunset Park Athletic Complex and retaining high-paying jobs.
"North Brentwood is a part of Brentwood that we have not put our best efforts there," Clare said. "It is how you prioritize and that needs to be done."
After serving two terms, Brockman said that this will be his last one. The former Brentwood Planning Commissioner said that he is seeking re-election to finish up several projects, including the upcoming General Plan process, which maps out the city's vision for the next 20 years.
"I'm the longest sitting council member and have the most experience," Brockman said. "History is really important to me. It is important to have that continuity."
Becnel said he would like to join the council again to help the city maintain a strong financial standing, develop the jobs base and protect deteriorating home values. Fire service and public safety are also areas of focus for the Brentwood attorney and CPA.
"In the last couple of years, the crime rate has increased somewhat, which requires a strong and measured response," Becnel said. "We must avoid the significant increases some other communities are experiencing."
Pillow said that her vision for Brentwood is to become the greenest and most sustainable community in the nation. She would also like to see less sales tax leakage to neighboring communities.
"I was inspired last summer because we (city) weren't having the rebound that we should have had from this recession," Pillow said. "The more I got involved, the more I wanted to get involved."
Barr said that he is running for the mayoral seat after one term on the council because he wants to help the city more regionally in attracting new businesses. Economic development and financial sustainability are key issues for Barr.
"I realized that my role was more than just a council member," he said. "There is a gap in a true leader role of actually being able to carry the council through meetings and provide leadership."
Taylor is seeking re-election because he wants to see several transportation projects completed, including the Sand Creek Road interchange along the Highway 4 bypass. Overall, he noted that the city is doing well and the current council makes wise decisions.
"I get excited and energized," Taylor said of the election season. "It brings more attention on people's values and what's important to them."
According to Barr, there are a lot of excellent candidates running in this election that would all serve the community well.
"There are a lot of possibilities in the campaign," he said. "There can be a lot of changes."
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174.
To find out more about local elections, go to www.contracostatimes.com/contra-costa-county-elections.