LCF City Council Selects Brown to Fill Empty Seat

Greg Brown was La Cañada Flintridge’s mayor in 2006 when the Town Center was approved.

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council soon will be whole again. Greg Brown was appointed Tuesday to a third term; he’ll serve until March 2019, filling the unscheduled vacancy that occurred with Dave Spence’s death in May.
“I’m excited, just to keep things moving and to get some things done and hopefully not miss a beat,” Brown said Tuesday evening by phone from Utah. “Obviously, this whole situation is one that we wish hadn’t arisen. You can’t help but think of Dave; he would want things to carry on well and so we’ll do our best.”
Brown, whose two prior terms included a stint as mayor in 2006-07, was in a remote area enjoying a large family reunion this week. He made a couple of trips to find cellphone service Tuesday — once for the morning phone interview and again that night to learn the results.
Via a barrage of emails and texts, he learned that the four sitting council members selected him unanimously from a field of 15 talented candidates.
Council members didn’t deliberate at all when it came to appointing Brown, but first the four of them were split, 2-2, on whether to even make an appointment or to hold a special election. Jonathan Curtis and Len Pieroni — the latter of whom was persuaded to make the selection Tuesday — said the caliber and quantity of applicants made them favor a special election.
The large field of hopefuls had backgrounds that ranged from the military, the legal field, aviation, engineering, technology and business, local and beyond. Of the 12 men and three women who interviewed, some had lived most of their lives in LCF and one arrived in the city two months ago.
“This was an incredibly talented group of applicants, I was very humbled by hearing their stories,” said Mayor Pro Tem Terry Walker, who with her fellow council members conducted approximately 15-minute interviews with each, asking all of them about collaboration and compromise.
Brown was the only former council member among them, and one of two who’d previously campaigned for a City Council seat in LCF. Only Keith Eich campaigned through a City Council race before, finishing third in March when Spence and Jonathan Curtis were re-elected. Eich — who said he plans to run again — finished with 1,775 votes to Curtis’ 2,665 and Spence’s 2,565.
“I really appreciate fresh views and new perspective,” Walker added. “I think that’s really exciting and could be really energizing for a council, but I think, for this time, in this position, experience matters, and Greg has the most experience and he has had the validation of the people.”
In Brown’s previous time on the council, he was involved with the creation of several local sewer districts, as well as the completion of LCF’s 12-mile trail loop. He also oversaw opposition to mansionization in the city as well as expansion of the 710 Freeway.
And he was mayor when the Town Center was approved, recalling that Sport Chalet founder Norbert Olberz said something to him then that seemed odd in 2006.
“Right after [Sport Chalet’s corporate offices] were built, he said, ‘Someday, this building should be City Hall,’” said Brown, who also served on the Planning Commission. “I thought, ‘What does that mean?’ Maybe he thought they’d only be bigger and better?”
Now Brown joins a council that’s in the process of relocating City Hall to that building from its current, cramped quarters.
“You just never know,” Brown said.
When Brown’s term expires, his seat will be open for a two-year term, in order to get the council seats back on a normal cycle, City Manager Mark Alexander said.
Potential election confusion was among the reasons that Curtis and Pieroni suggested the council might call for a special election on Nov. 7, which would cost the city about $78,000.
“It would cost the city some money, but it helps fill the spot for the duration and it doesn’t mess up the whole election cycle,” Pieroni said.
With so many “tremendous” candidates to consider, Curtis suggested that the voters ought to have the final say, quoting Robert Kennedy to drive home his point: “Elections remind us not only of the rights but the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy.”
Added Curtis: “I’ve been through two elections and, frankly, they’re a lot of work, but you learn a lot, you engage with the community a lot and it helps bring a lot to the table.”
Furthermore, he said, the La Cañada Unified School District’s election in November could bring a larger cross-section of voters out to the polls.
But Mayor Michael Davitt suggested LCUSD might not benefit from sharing Election Day with the city.
“I would hate to have a negative effect on the school district’s efforts in terms of their bond measure, if there were candidates who decided to run who were not in favor of that,” said Davitt, adding that he found the process fair.
“The process we have undertaken was open to everyone and 16 people submitted applications [Charles Gelhaar withdrew before interviews],” Davitt said. “The applicants are expecting us to make an appointment, or at least to try. The community is thinking we’re going to do that.”
Walker was clear that she also wanted to choose on Tuesday.
“It’s time for our community to heal,” she said. “It’s very difficult for us to do that with that vacant seat there. The community put us in office because they want us to make the tough decisions. I can see no real benefit in carrying this on through November, I don’t think it’s good for the town, I don’t think it’s healthy.”
Eventually, Pieroni agreed to go forward with an appointment and nominated Brown. Walker seconded the motion and Curtis immediately concurred.
“We’re looking for someone who will hit the ground running and be up to speed from a council standpoint,” Curtis said. “Greg Brown makes the most sense.”
Spence’s death marked the second time a sitting LCF City Council member died while in office. According to Alexander, Jack Hastings’ death in 1997 led to a special election in 1998, when Deborah Orlik was elected to fill the vacancy for the remaining 10 months on that term, beating Anthony Portantino by two votes. Portantino, now a state Senator, went on to receive the most votes in the 1999 general municipal election.

Leave a Reply