Widow of Late Redondo Beach Councilman May Take His Seat
Compassion and unity are words not often associated with the contentious world of Redondo Beach politics. But those who know the city’s political scene say that has changed--at least temporarily--thanks to the legacy of the late Councilman Joe White.
Friends say White, who died Oct. 21 after just five months in office, was no typical politician. And now they are looking to his widow, Marilyn White, to pick up for her late husband.
Joe White, 63, had emerged from a field of five candidates in a lively campaign to win office, but the soft-spoken Navy veteran held no further political ambitions. He simply saw a stint on the City Council as a way to improve the neighborhood where he had lived for 34 years.
His prime supporters were everyday people he had known for years--residents he had sold homes to as a real estate agent, regulars at his neighborhood tavern and parents whose children played in Little League with his son.
So when White died of heart failure after a brief hospitalization, his opponents in the last election did something unusual for Redondo Beach. Instead of jockeying for the open seat, they supported his widow, who appears headed for an uncontested appointment to the council Dec. 16.
“Anybody who’s anybody has supported Marilyn,” said City Clerk John Oliver, who backed one of White’s opponents in the April runoff. “You’ve got Republicans and Democrats, independents and union people all supporting one person. For this city, that’s unbelievable.”
White’s chief opponents were city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael Herman, businessman Bruce Unruh and city Youth Commissioner Robe Richester. All have endorsed Marilyn White. Tom Downs, school board president of the South Bay Union High School District, and neighborhood activists Larry Cote and Jim Isaac also have endorsed Marilyn White.
“There was no hesitation on my part . . . to support Marilyn,” said Richester. “It seemed fitting. It was meant to be. I knew Marilyn was definitely qualified and, after all those years of marriage, was on the same wavelength as Joe.”
Richester credited White with bringing former rivals together to concentrate on improving the neighborhood. It was the unity that he created that formed the backbone of Marilyn White’s candidacy, he said.
“What Joe did, he pulled people together,” Richester said. “He had a sense of camaraderie. He made a big impact in a short time.”
Marilyn White was the sole candidate to file nomination papers by Tuesday’s deadline, meaning her name would be the only name on the ballot if an election is held Feb. 4. The city will not have to hold an election, however, if no write-in candidates file for election by Dec. 15, saving the city as much as $30,000 in election costs.
If no one else comes forward, the City Council would hold a special session on Dec. 16 to swear in Marilyn White as the new councilwoman. She would begin her duties the following evening at the Dec. 17 meeting.
Current council members appear eager to have Marilyn White join them.
“She’s not just Joe’s widow,” said Mayor Brad Parton, who had campaigned against Joe White but considered him a “father figure” once he won a seat on the council. “She’s a very bright, articulate woman who will make a good councilwoman.”
A frank, talkative woman of 62, Marilyn White said she never could have imagined that she would one day sit on the City Council.
“I got an awful lot of calls right after Joe died,” she said. “They said he took care of the small stuff that bugs the dickens out of them. ‘He returned our calls,’ they said and then they asked, ‘Why don’t you run?’ ”
Marilyn White, who bowls in a league and regularly plays pinochle with friends, said she is no expert on civic affairs but does have a genuine concern for the city. She said she has picked up important business skills by managing apartments and running the family tavern.
She said she will follow up on two issues that Joe White was tackling: turning the former Aviation High School site into a small neighborhood park and resolving the city’s dispute over an easement with some property owners on Freeman Boulevard.
“I watched Joe,” she said. “And there have been things I’ve done in the family business that I’ve done well. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know everything. But I know who to ask questions to and I know I have a lot of support.”