Joe (Chief) White, a retired construction superintendent with lifelong ties to Redondo Beach's north side, will be sworn in next week as Redondo Beach's newest city councilman, assuming the post held since 1982 by Ron Cawdrey.
His new colleagues on the Redondo Beach City Council and City Hall observers expect that White will bring a different demeanor to council sessions and perhaps a complete reconsideration of several pressing issues, including a recent garbage-hauling contract and plans to develop Aviation Park.
However, the 63-year-old White said Wednesday that he has not decided what his first actions will be, other than "to promote what's good for this community and this city."
In an election Tuesday that brought out only 18% of the voters in the city's north-side District 5, White received 699 votes, or 59.1%, to 486 for Michael Herman, who ran with the endorsement of Mayor Brad Parton and outspent White, $8,964 to $5,732.
"I think he's just got a lot of friends he's known for 30 years, and that definitely was an advantage to him," said Herman, a beer distributor who has lived in the district for eight years compared to White's 34.
"Nobody's ever believed me, but I've been in this community a long time," he said. "I was a Little League sponsor for years, and in those days, we mowed the fields ourselves and worked the concession stands--there wasn't anybody to do it for you. And I was a Realtor here for a long time. A lot of these people, I sold their houses to them 30 years ago. And they didn't forget me."
White's election ends the nine-year incumbency of Cawdrey, a staunch proponent of harbor-area business and development, and a key link in the council's three-member pro-growth majority. However, responding to speculation that has been rife in his district for months, Cawdrey said Wednesday that his political career is not likely to end.
Cawdrey, a telephone workers' union official, refused to rule out a run for mayor in two years, and said he also may make a bid for a state legislative seat.
Cawdrey was appointed to the council in 1982 to fill the unexpired term of Gene King, who had resigned. The following year, Cawdrey was elected to a four-year term, and in 1985, he withstood a recall campaign that targeted his backing of a plan to raze the defunct Aviation High School campus for commercial development.
He was re-elected in 1987, and when his second term was almost up, he filed an unsuccessful court challenge to the two-term limit in the City Charter.
On Wednesday, his fellow council members predicted that Cawdrey's departure will, among other things, bring a measure of peace to the often quarrelsome council.
"Ron had been on there a long time, and there were some bad feelings between him and some of the council members from things that had happened in the past," Parton said. "I think with either of the candidates (to replace Cawdrey), there would have been more harmony up there."
Added Councilman Stevan Colin, who, with Councilwoman Barbara Doerr, often disagreed with Cawdrey: "People had this hunch that Ron was always maneuvering. I think the remaining council members have the feeling that Joe will deal with them up front."
But Cawdrey said it's "hard to say" how different White's stewardship will be from his own.
"I'll know better after I see him in action and maybe get an opportunity to talk to him," Cawdrey said, adding that he hopes to share with White "some of the history" behind such controversial city issues as how to develop Aviation Park.
White said he's willing to listen to Cawdrey but is not likely to retreat from his belief that the high school campus turned city park should remain a modest facility, rather than the sophisticated recreational complex advocated by Cawdrey.
For example, White said, he would not vote for the mayor's proposal to raze the existing gymnasium and build a new one. Advocates say the new facility would be cheaper in the long term to operate.
"Why tear down a $5-million building and then build a new one 300 feet away?" White said. "Economy-wise, it doesn't make sense. Let's face it, we're not made of money out here, and that's the last original building of Aviation High School."
White has also said he would be willing to back Colin's plan to reconsider the exclusive waste-hauling contract approved by the city this month. The city has given Carson-based Western Waste Industries all of the city's residential garbage collection business and nearly all of its commercial and industrial hauling.
But Colin and Doerr have disputed the contract, saying it gives one hauler a virtual monopoly.
Proponents, including Cawdrey, argue that an exclusive contract is the only way the city can persuade profit-conscious haulers to offer curbside recycling, which in turn is necessary for the city to comply with state-mandated reductions in the amount of waste hauled to landfills.
Throughout the debate, Cawdrey--who received campaign contributions from Western Waste before a court rejected his challenge to the two-term limit--was the chief advocate on the council for an exclusive contract. However, Colin and Doerr vowed throughout the proceedings to bring the matter up for reconsideration after the election.
Cawdrey said Wednesday that a reconsideration would violate parliamentary procedure, but Colin said he plans to bring the matter up Tuesday.
ELECTION RETURNS: REDONDO BEACH
City Council, District 5
6 of 6 Precincts Reporting
CANDIDATE VOTE % Michael Herman 486 40.9 Joe (Chief) White 699 59.1