Jim Katapodis will be ready to run with the big dogs if he's elected to the Huntington Beach City Council this year.
In part, that's because he's gotten used to big dogs on the campaign trail.
Those growling canines often approach the door when the second-time candidate, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010, knocks with campaign literature in hand. It's a reminder that each door leads to the home of a stranger and that Katapodis, a 34-year veteran with the Los Angeles Police Department, will have to sell himself to each one as a potential councilman.
"I don't enjoy the dogs coming after me," Katapodis said Friday at his home during a break from campaigning. "So many people have dogs. Last night, a German shepherd came after me, but the owner got it just in time."
Once he gets past the pets, Katapodis introduces himself and asks the homeowners about their concerns in Huntington Beach. As many as seven days a week, he heads out alone to knock on doors, but he's hardly without support as the November election approaches.
The city's police and fire associations recently endorsed him, and he's gotten thumbs up from former mayors Debbie Cook, Cathy Green and Gil Coerper, and current council members Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman. The Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn., a grass-roots group that has campaigned for public safety and other quality-of-life issues, declared its support Tuesday.
In 2010, Katapodis finished eighth out of 21 candidates in a race for four open seats. Having served on budget committees with the police and as a sergeant-at-arms with the Los Angeles City Council, he felt he had enough legislative experience to try a run for office.
Despite coming up short the first time, Katapodis took his relatively high finish as a positive sign.
"People were surprised, and I felt really good about that," he said. "Of course, I would have liked to be fourth, but I was 1,500 votes away from being a city councilman."
Over the last two years, Katapodis has immersed himself in local politics, following the votes of the City Council and Planning Commission, and joining the Chamber of Commerce's Legislative and Policy Action Committee.
He's also served the city in another capacity: as the head of Huntington's 9/11 Memorial Committee, which is raising funds to build a sculpture outside City Hall honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks.
Katapodis, who plans to retire from the LAPD in February, said one of his top priorities as a candidate is to resist further cuts to public safety staffing.
He supports pension reform and wants to smooth the process for small business owners to obtain permits. He also opposes the council's recent decision to allow the sale of safe-and-sane fireworks on the Fourth of July, which he views as a safety threat.
"There was a reason we got rid of them, and I don't see why we brought them back," Katapodis said.
Although Katapodis is a registered Republican, he said he pitches himself to voters as a candidate who shies away from partisan attitudes.
For Cook, that independent nature is one of his strongest assets.
"He seems to have a very open mind," she said. "He doesn't seem to come in with preconceived notions."
Green, who planned to run for the council this year before withdrawing due to a conflict with another elected office, said Katapodis' resume helped win her endorsement.
"He was a sergeant-at-arms at L.A. council meetings, and I thought, 'Boy, anyone who could handle that could handle anything,'" she said. "I think he would be a good addition and good balance for the council."
Twitter: @MichaelMillerHBCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times