The question La Cañada Flintridge City Council candidate Keith Eich is asked the most is “Why are you running for public office?” The answer ties into his philosophy of giving back.
Eich, 40, is one of four candidates seeking three seats on the council in the general municipal election to be held on March 3. The others are incumbents Leonard Pieroni and Terry Walker and former LCF Planning Commissioner Rick Gunter.
“I’ve been volunteering civically and in different things through nonprofits for a very long time,” Eich said. “I’m passionate about that. Giving back to the community, giving back to the organizations I’m part of. So I want to give back to our city. I think we have something special and I want to help keep it special.”
The vice president of product development for LegalZoom is a homeowner, a husband and the father of three children, ages 7, 6 and 3. He has lived in LCF for more than five years.
Eich is the chair of the city’s Public Works and Traffic Commission, to which he was appointed in 2018. In 2017, he ran for City Council and came in third in a race for two seats that were won by Dave Spence and Jonathan Curtis.
“I think my message and hopefully my personality resonated with people,” Eich said. “I expect to build upon that this time. I’ve built a lot better name recognition and I’ve done a lot more in town.”
Spence, a longtime councilman and six-time mayor, died in May 2017. Eich applied for the vacant seat but Gregory Brown, who remains on the council, was appointed instead.
In the current election, Brown decided not to run for his seat, which had two years remaining on the term, citing his wish to devote more time to his family and to church responsibilities that include counseling individuals. Incumbent Michael Davitt, who decided not to run for his own four-year seat and instead run for Brown’s, was appointed by the council in December because there were no challengers for the two-year position.
Eich, an elder at La Cañada Presbyterian Church, earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2009 from USC and in the mid-2000s obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
He moved to LCF in August 2014 and said he grew up Poland, Ohio, which he described as a “very similar town” with “great” schools.
“We didn’t have the foothills but we had the Poland woods,” trails and impressive outdoors, said Eich. He compared the community’s economic demographic to LCF’s. “I’d say it was a more well-off community. I have that to lean on in seeing how that worked growing up. Because I know a lot of people are like ‘Well, you’re not from here. How do you know how we work or how things have been?’ Well, I have that perspective.”
He feels his experience at LegalZoom would help him as a member of the City Council because of the decision-making skills he has developed. During the last 10-15 years, he said, he’s moved from being an individual contributor to having a leadership or management position. He said his current post is similar to that of a City Council member because he is the final authority on a decision after gathering information.
His priorities for LCF include improving conditions regarding traffic, crime, utilities and pollution.
“I look at traffic and congestion in general as one of the biggest issues,” Eich said. “To give you an idea, in La Cañada, we have an average of 2½ cars per household. Most cities around us have an average of 1.5. So we have significantly more cars per household. With that, traffic in general in our town is going to be more congested. And how we manage that, how we create flow through town, I think is really, really important.”
Another big issue is crime, which he says is “up year over year.”
“But also the perception of crime is really high,” Eich said. “I think residents have heard horror stories, have seen or experienced things and it’s a real threat to our community.”
He feels the city needs more directed law enforcement patrols and better enforcement, especially around the schools.
“If we don’t do enforcement, people are just going to continue to do what they want,” he said. “It’s a common thing for engineers to say you can engineer a solution so much. Then you’ve got to educate people about it. And then you’ve got to enforce it. Enforcement is something our commission has no authority over at the end of the day. It takes the City Council and the City Manager actually encouraging that. I think enforcement of things is important.”
Eich thinks LCF has infrastructure issues and he would like to investigate further.
“I worry that our infrastructure systems in town, some of which we control, some of which we definitely don’t but have influence over through our utility companies, we have not proactively gone and looked at that.”
Regarding pollution, he is concerned about garbage trucks and sediment removal in the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam project, also known as the Big Dig, that stopped for the year on Nov. 15 and is set to resume in May.
“Three years ago I was talking about what the detrimental effects are going to be,” said Eich, adding he questions how Los Angeles County, which is behind the project, will maintain Hahamonga Watershed Park when it’s complete.
He also is passionate about general safety around schools and in particular the safety and education of younger children.
“And make sure that not just the kids are in high school or matriculate into college but the younger ones are important,” Eich said.
Eich feels his city government experience would be a big plus if he is elected.
“Absolutely,” Eich said. “Working with a lot of citizens, the schools, businesses, the staff, having good rapport with the staff and work with them, not against them, I think is really, really important. At the end of the day, they’re who we pay to do and execute the work.”
*Today The Outlook begins a weekly series of profiles of the four City Council candidates — in alphabetical order — in the March 3 election. This week’s report, on Keith Eich, will be followed by articles on Rick Gunter (Jan. 16), Leonard Pieroni (Jan. 23) and Terry Walker (Jan. 30).