CONCORD -- The headquarters of the "No on Measure J" campaign is a room Louis Mazzarella shares with two others in a skilled nursing facility on San Miguel Road.
There's no TV or Internet access at the San Miguel Villa. But Mazzarella is old fashioned that way, running his campaign in much the same way he did when he entered Concord politics in 1968 -- with fliers, a megaphone and hours of hitting the streets.
"I'm a political animal," said Mazzarella in the lobby of the San Miguel Villa. "I'm like the Newt Gingrich of Concord. The old war horse. I love it. It revs me up."
Mazzarella's drive to thwart Measure J, which would eliminate Concord's treasurer as an elected position, may not "rev" up many. At a campaign stop in front of Trader Joe's on Oak Grove Road on Tuesday, many ignored his requests to take a flier, and those who did appeared befuddled.
But Mazzarella is a particular kind of City Hall gadfly. He has spent four decades running for local seats and losing, all the while advocating to keep the seats of treasurer and city clerk elected.
To him, it's simple -- the city treasurer's office has worked well for 105 years, so why change it?
"If it's not broken, it does not need fixing," he wrote in his argument against the measure. "Leave it alone."
Mazzarella, a Massachusetts native who came to Concord in 1964, has had a colorful past in politics. He first ran for council in 1968, at 23, the youngest
Officials at the time warned him that his house was not within city limits, which would disqualify him if he was elected. In 1970, he ran as a write-in candidate in Clayton, despite living in Concord, according to newspaper clippings in the Times, which Mazzarella keeps in a scrapbook. He lost in both instances.
In 1972, he became the first person to challenge then-City Clerk Anna Mary Brown. First appointed in 1953, Brown won every subsequent election unopposed.
Mazzarella lost in 1972 and again in 1985.
Meanwhile, measures to make the city clerk an appointed position also went down in those elections. The clerk job was finally changed to an appointed post in 2008, when Mazzarella was in Texas to be with his ailing mother and not there to challenge it.
About that, he said, "When the cat's away, the mice will play."
Mazzarella's campaign against Measure J signals his return to local politics. A stroke he suffered six years ago has left him with limited use of the left side of his body, or of his dominant left hand. He now gets around in a wheelchair and takes the bus to City Hall and shopping centers to spread the word about Measure J, and why voters should reject it.
As the election heats up, Mazzarella plans to rent a motorized wheelchair. He has poured money into newspaper advertisements, fliers and lawn signs -- about $2,300 so far, he said.
He has spent about 10 hours going over campaign paperwork with City Clerk Mary Rae Lehman.
"I commend him for his spirit and involvement in city politics for so many years," said Lehman. "I'm sorry that the community hasn't had the opportunity to really get to know the passion that Louis Mazzarella has for Concord."
Measure J has the support of past and present Concord politicians, as well as current Treasurer Thomas Wentling. Supporters say more than half of California's cities now appoint treasurers. They also point to the city saving $24,000 a year by not paying a treasurer's salary. Instead of appointing a treasurer, the city plans to have staff members take over those responsibilities.
It hasn't often been a competitive post; Wentling has faced opponents in three of seven elections since he first took office in 1985.
The fact Wentling doesn't see a need for the office is enough reason for Councilman Dan Helix.
"If Tom says you don't need the position, then you don't need it," said Helix, who said staff can handle the job and the council can serve as the check and balance.
Helix first opposed Mazzarella in 1968 in a City Council campaign, a race Helix won and Mazzarella lost.
"He's a fine man, and he speaks from the heart," said Helix. "What he's proposing, although I don't agree with it, I respect his position."
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.