Local Elections : Both Challengers Target the Mayor : Lakewood Incumbents Run on Fiscal Issues

Times Staff Writer

Though two of the Lakewood City Council members are seeking reelection April 8, both challengers are directing their campaigns at only one of the incumbents, Mayor Larry Van Nostran.

Both challengers--Roy E. Pepper, who is making his first bid for office, and Jack Adkins, who has run for the council and lost three times--want to replace Van Nostran, who has been on the council for 11 years.

Both Pepper, a retired investment counselor for a real estate firm and Adkins, 51, also a real estate and investment counselor, have praised eight-year Councilwoman Jacqueline Rynerson. They have made it clear that they are gunning for Van Nostran.

"I think Jackie Rynerson is a fine lady," said Pepper, who is active in senior citizens' affairs.

"I think Van Nostran has shown poor leadership. I haven't been satisfied with the job he has done over the years," Adkins said.

Van Nostran, who is seeking his fourth term on the five-member council, said it was unclear to him what his opponents were talking about.

'Not Like Jackie'

"I'm not like Jackie. She can be sweet and nice. My style is different. I might rub people the wrong way sometimes. I tell them what I think," Van Nostran said.

Van Nostran, 52, says no issues have emerged in the race.

"The biggest thing so far is that six of my eight-foot election signs have disappeared from around town," Van Nostran said.

Van Nostran said he did not know who was taking the signs and that he wasn't blaming his opponents.

On the other hand, Van Nostran said, he did not know how serious the challengers are, "but I'll be prepared. I always run scared." He said he he expected to raise an estimated $8,000. So far he has raised about $2,000, he said.

Van Nostran was first elected in 1975 in a special election to replace Mark Hannaford, who successfully ran for Congress.

Through good management, Van Nostran said, "Lakewood is one of the two . . . healthiest cities financially in Southern California." He said he ranked only Cerritos above Lakewood.

As an example of its financial health, Van Nostran said, the city has a budget of $20 million for 1985-86 and a reserve of $7 million.

(Cerritos has a budget of $29.7 million and a reserve of $7.5 million for the same period.)

'We Have the Money'

"We have been able to keep up with such things as street maintenance and tree trimming because we have the money and have managed it well," Van Nostran said.

Redevelopment was an issue when he first came on the council 11 years ago, Van Nostran said. "I survived two recall attempts (in 1975 and 1976) by opponents of redevelopment," said Van Nostran, who is a supporter of redevelopment.

The city's second-largest shopping center is now being refurbished with the aid of redevelopment funds and "the political turmoil is no longer there," Van Nostran said.

Dutch Village, which was built in 1952 and is approximately 25 acres, is under a $15-million redevelopment project by the Hopkins Development Co. of Newport Beach. It was deteriorating and was only contributing 2% in retail sales taxes to the city, Van Nostran said.

The city Redevelopment Agency contributed $1.75 million to the project for improvements to sewer and water lines, and for relocation assistance to tenants, he said.

The project will include the development of a Vons Pavilion "super store," a Marshall's clothing store and a Thrifty Drug & Discount Store. The project is expected to create 450 jobs and $22 million in annual retail sales, said Don Waldie, city public information officer.

Owns Auto Center

Construction is expected to start this summer and be completed by 1987.

Van Nostran owns Larry Vans Auto Center. The center, which sells used cars, trucks and vans, has offices in Long Beach and Bellflower. Van Nostran and his wife, Jean, have two sons and five grandchildren.

Rynerson, 64, who was first elected to the council in 1978, has a reputation for being a strong, civic-minded community booster of city projects and a non-controversial councilwoman.

Rynerson, who attended USC, said she is especially proud that she organized the Lakewood Beautiful program in 1980, which recognizes residents who "keep their homes well-groomed."

She said she was also proud of the $10-million renovation and construction project in the civic center, which was completed in February, 1985. The project included the remodeling of a sheriff's department substation and the construction of Sycamore Centre community center with funds from the Redevelopment Agency as well as some city, county, state and federal money.

The one key issue facing the city, Rynerson said, will be finding a way to cope with losses in federal funds. The city stands to lose an estimated $700,000 in revenue sharing money and community development block grant funds in the proposed federal budget, Rynerson said.

The funds, which include loans to low-income residents for home repairs and street improvements, have been gradually diminishing, Rynerson said.

'Scramble' for Funds

"We will have to scramble to replace them," Rynerson said. She and Van Nostran traveled recently to Washington with representatives of the League of California Cities to listen to and gain support from legislators.

Rynerson said she has raised about $1,800 for her campaign. Rynerson, who worked for 10 years as a secretary for the state Department of Public Health, said she did not expect to raise more than $4,000.

She and her husband, Dewain, a retired electrical engineer, have lived in Lakewood since 1952. They have four grown children, three sons and a daughter.

Adkins, a real estate and investment counselor for the Real Estate Store in Lakewood, said he is running because "I feel I'm more qualified, more concerned, more capable and dedicated than Van Nostran.

"I honestly believe I can do a better job," said Adkins, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1975, 1976 and 1980.

Adkins said he became involved in city politics in the early 1970s. Adkins said he has attended several colleges, including El Camino and Cerritos community colleges, and taken extension courses from UCLA.

Shooting Explained

He said he did not intend to spend more than $500 for his campaign.

In an interview, he said he believed it was necessary to explain his involvement in a 1975 Lakewood street shooting "because it had come up" during the campaign.

Adkins said he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, but the charges were dismissed in Superior Court. He said he had fired a shot in self-defense when he was surrounded by several youths and adults who attacked him. He said that after he was hit with a claw hammer, he fired a shot from a handgun and the bullet ricocheted off the sidewalk and hit one of the individuals in the shoulder, causing a flesh wound.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's department said the department could not comment on Adkins' account because state law prohibits it from discussing individuals' records. Adkins, who has two grown sons, is divorced.

Pepper said that over the years he has been involved with senior citizen affairs while doing volunteer work.

Pepper was elected in 1981 and 1983 as assemblyman to represent Los Angeles in the California Senior Legislature, a nonpartisan statewide advocacy organization.

He is now an alternate to the organization.

Pepper is single and has lived in Lakewood since 1950. He has a bachelor of science degree in accounting and economics from Ohio University. Pepper said he retired in 1979 an as investment counselor for the Don Bird real estate brokerage firm in Tustin.

Pepper said he did not intend to spend more than $1,000 in the campaign and believes that $1,000 should be the limit for campaign spending.

He would prefer, he said, that the spending limit equal a council member's monthly salary.

Lakewood council members receive $510 a month. Travel and lodging expenses for city business are paid by the city.

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