The five-member San Fernando City Council got an unexpected infusion of youth Tuesday night when newcomers Joanne Baltierrez and Raul Godinez ousted incumbents Dan Acuna and Jose Hernandez.
Incumbent Doude Wysbeek, 53, who was reelected, said he welcomed the new ideas promised by Baltierrez, 37, and Godinez, 32, after they replace Acuna, 53, and Hernandez, 63.
"They have younger ideas," said Wysbeek, widely regarded as a conservative council member. "I think they will be good for the city."
Hernandez and Acuna ran status-quo campaigns, centered on maintaining the current level of public services without raising taxes.
All three incumbents whose seats were contested sought reelection, but only Wysbeek received enough votes, leading all candidates with 965.
Baltierrez, a social worker with the nonprofit CORO Foundation, a youth leadership training organization, promised to create literacy programs and bring more businesses into the city. She received 834 votes.
Godinez, an engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said he would try to improve San Fernando's negative image by hiring a public relations consultant.
He also promised to clean up city government in the wake of the January firing of Parks Director Jess Margarito, a former council member, for allegedly falsifying official documents and misappropriating city funds. Godinez received 833 votes.
Of the city's 6,000 registered voters, 2,406 took part in the election, an increase from the 1992 City Council elections, when 1,887 people voted.
"I had a good feeling I would be one of the winners," said Wysbeek, "and I thought Godinez would make it in, but I am surprised at the way things broke down."
Wysbeek was particularly surprised that only 579 people voted for Acuna, the city's mayor, who was running for his third consecutive four-year term.
"Even though last time (1990) he had a few problems, he was the leading vote-getter," Wysbeek said.
"The message I heard on the streets was, 'Don't divide our community,' and both Baltierrez and Godinez seemed very aware of that in their campaigns," Wysbeek added.
Acuna, who also promised to increase jobs and cut down on crime if reelected, took credit for the city's quick response to the Northridge earthquake. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
City activists launched an unsuccessful recall campaign against Acuna in 1991, citing a history of financial problems. The state Fair Political Practices Commission issued a warning letter to Acuna in 1992 after finding that he improperly filed economic-interest statements and misused campaign funds, but no punitive action was ever taken.
Hernandez, chairman of Cal State Northridge's urban studies and planning department, also fell short of reelection, receiving 740 votes. He has said he is a strong supporter of youth and senior citizen programs. Hernandez also was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Godinez said he was surprised that candidates with small campaign budgets received as many or more votes than better-financed candidates.
Arthur Kay, who collected only 500 votes, had a $36,000 campaign fund, most of which was from his own law firm, according to campaign spending reports. John Becker, who did not file a report because he spent less than $1,000 on his campaign, received 516 votes. Most candidates spent between $10,000 and $20,000.
The only other candidate, Ed Guzman, received 423 votes.
"I don't know why the others lost, but I'd like to think we worked hard, and we had a message that people liked," Godinez said. "I kept hearing that we had quite a bit of support, but I didn't know if that would mean we would get the third or fourth largest vote or what."
Godinez said his first priority will be to have all council meetings televised.
The new council members will be sworn in Tuesday, and their first council meeting will be May 2.