PINOLE -- Two incumbents weathered a challenge from a retired businesswoman and retained their seats on the Pinole City Council on Tuesday.
Peter Murray, business development director for Contra Costa Electric Co. and the current mayor, was headed for a sixth consecutive four-year term on the council with 41 percent of the vote with most precincts reporting.
Roy Swearingen, a semiretired construction consultant, had 32.1 percent of the vote for the second seat. He was elected in February 2008 to serve out the remaining term of Maria Alegria, who was recalled by voters; Swearingen won a four-year term in November 2008, as Murray was re-elected and Alegria finished third.
Ivette Ricco, who spent more than 20 years in the real estate and debt-collection industries, was third with 26.3 percent. She served 10 years with the Pinole Chamber of Commerce, as executive director and then as president. It was Ricco's third bid for elective office, after unsuccessful runs for a vacant seat on the council in February 2008 and for city treasurer in November 2008.
Ricco spoke against what she characterized as the "status quo" and a city "stuck in neutral with no plans for the long-term future." Her recipe out of that situation is to attract new businesses while preserving and supporting existing businesses.
Ricco has developed a following in Pinole's small-business community, but her detractors fault her for opposing several businesses and projects while with the chamber, including a planned retail-and-office building on Old Town Pinole's main corner, now an open space named Community Corner, and a restaurant that managed to open in Old Town despite Ricco's opposition and is now thriving. Her backers credit her for fighting to protect longtime existing businesses from unfair competition.
Murray and Swearingen touted their leadership during a difficult four years in which they wrestled with budget deficits as the city's property tax revenues and sales tax receipts from two shopping centers along Interstate 80, a mainstay of its budget, took a hit from the slow economy. Today's city workforce is less than two-thirds the size it was four years ago, and one of two city fire stations is closed.
"The community understood what Roy and I and the rest of the council did in trying to keep the city together the last four years," Murray said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "It's been extremely difficult."
Swearingen praised what he called the "tremendous turnout" of Pinole voters.
"One thing I'm happy about is, the voters came out and made choices and decided what they wanted," Swearingen said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. In a nod to Measure M, the utility user tax renewal also on Tuesday's ballot that appeared headed for victory, he added:
"And so far we think they made good decisions."
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner.