Last week, June Williams was a widow who lived by herself in a home on Manhattan Avenue in Hermosa Beach that she and her late husband, Bill, shared for 17 years before he died of cancer early last year.
Williams had no job, and she spent much of her time dabbling with oil paints in her home or playing golf in El Segundo.
Williams still likes to paint and she remains an avid golfer, but as of this week, she is also a Hermosa Beach City Council member, a newlywed, a stepmother, a stepgrandmother--and the talk of City Hall.
Williams won a seat on the council in last week’s election by slipping past three-term incumbent George Barks by 20 votes out of 2,556 cast. Both Barks and Jack Wood, a one-term councilman, were ousted from office in a backlash against incumbents.
“I bet there are a lot of people out there who wish they had run,” said Tony DeBellis, who was sworn in as mayor Tuesday night, the same time Williams and newly elected council members Etta Simpson and Jim Rosenberger
took office. “It was a big surprise.”
Williams, 57, who has a small-town manner that fuses humor, humility and occasional outlandishness, said she confined most of her first campaign for public office to the greens in El Segundo.
“There are a lot of Hermosa Beach people out on that golf course,” she said in an interview this week.
There are a lot of other people on the golf course, too. One of them, Bill Bourland, a lab technician from Lawndale, became Williams’ fourth husband Sunday just after midnight.
Late Saturday, the golf partners drove to Las Vegas from Pomona, where Bourland, who is 14 years younger than his bride, had been playing in a tournament and where Williams had been poring over her council materials for Tuesday’s meeting. The couple, who met last August and had been planning for several weeks to get married, found a chapel, and shortly after midnight exchanged vows.
Why so late? “We wanted to get married before we went to the motel,” she quipped.
She plans to take her new husband’s name eventually, but for the time being will answer to both Williams and Bourland.
“I feel a little guilty since they had already made the sign and printed it up,” she said, referring to the “June Williams” enamel plaque that the city clerk ordered for the council chambers.
“I thought it might be a little confusing if I changed it right now. I don’t want to rush into this. Either way is OK.”
Bill Bourland, who is divorced, has two children and a granddaughter living in Sacramento. Williams, who said she has always wanted children, has not met her new family, but said she is excited about inviting them to Hermosa Beach this summer.
“After I lost my husband, I figured I would never get married again,” said Williams, whose late husband died in January, 1985. “I wasn’t even thinking about getting married. . . . I guess it happens when you’re not looking.”
Williams said a widow’s life can be lonely. “It is hard for women who are very active,” she said. “You don’t have an escort, and you can’t even go out once in a while. It is boring.”
Once Bourland is able to switch from the night shift to the day shift and the couple get acclimated to their new life, they will take time out to fly to her native Indianapolis to visit her parents and sister, she said.
After a wedding, “usually the first thing I do is go back to Indiana,” she explained. “They always like to meet my husband.”
Williams first married at age 19 shortly after she moved to California. She twice married and divorced her first husband, who was a dentist, and then married and divorced a deputy sheriff. She later met Bill Williams, who worked for a beer distributor, in Newport Beach where she was selling real estate in the early 1960s. They were married for 19 years.
“That is not a bad record,” said Williams, who seems to enjoy poking fun at herself.
Williams, who decided to run for office more than a year ago, said she considered giving up her council hopes after she met Bourland last summer, but she decided that she could have the best of both worlds.
“My husband left me fairly well off, so I don’t have to work,” she said. “I have always been interested in politics, and I believe if you are able and have the time, you should devote yourself to public service.”
Yet Williams, who served on the now-disbanded Board of Zoning Adjustments for five years, was unable to muster much interest in her campaign. She was widely perceived as the underdog in the five-person race for three council seats.
With few volunteers rallying around her candidacy, Williams put together and directed her own committee with the help of a couple of neighbors. She got advice about her posters and campaign literature from her pastor at the Hope Chapel, and she prepped for two televised candidate forums with the help of Bourland.
On election night, she slipped off her shoes and curled up on her living room coach in an old pair of jeans, watching the returns on cable TV--alone. Bourland was at work.
“I just didn’t have anybody,” said Williams, recalling that she hadn’t even put on her makeup. “I didn’t want to go down to City Hall because I really don’t know those people.”
But shortly after her victory became official, people at City Hall started asking, “Where is June Williams?” As word spread that she was at home, neighbors and past and present city officials filed into her living room, some draping her stairway with streamers.
Not expecting a victory celebration, Williams broke out the only champagne she could find--a bottle that she and her late husband had bought for her graduation from nursing school in 1984. Williams had enrolled in a nursing program at Harbor College shortly after her husband was diagnosed as having cancer so she could take care of him in their home.
While Williams’ victory may have surprised her, it shocked the election night crowd that had gathered at City Hall. Conventional wisdom held that Williams was not a serious candidate, and that she had come across poorly and somewhat flighty at the candidate forums. Her most common reply to questions at the first forum was that she wants “whatever is best for Hermosa Beach,” a refrain that brought groans from the audience.
Williams acknowledged in the interview this week that she sometimes came across poorly during the campaign, especially during that first candidate forum. She said, however, that her peers on the council will learn that she has a mind of her own.
“A lot of people are probably going to be very surprised,” she said. “I like to keep an open mind, but once my mind is made up, watch out.”
Williams has already met with City Manager Gregory Meyer to get some questions answered about the City Council agenda, the city budget and other issues, and she is looking into various introductory seminars for newly elected politicians to learn more about being a public official.
“It was obvious to me that she had read every line” of the agenda, said Meyer, adding that Williams exhibited “freshman enthusiasm” during their meeting. “She had all her questions written out on the various documents. . . . That is very pleasing.”
City Atty. James Lough, who used to deal with Williams when she was a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustments, said her enthusiasm does not surprise him.
“She was a real tough vote on the board,” Lough said. “She made the applicants jump through all the necessary hoops. She questioned everything, and she was always willing to ask the questions that needed to be asked.”
“I may not be as smart as some of the others, but I have common sense, which I think is more important,” she said. “Just because I smile and laugh a lot doesn’t mean I can’t fight.”