Kim Carr says she “gets it.”
The 48-year-old has seen her suburban beach town transition into a hot spot for high-density development since she moved to Huntington Beach in 1997.
Frustration plagued the mother of two seven years ago, when she got what she calls the “runaround” from city officials as a “sleepy” storage container business behind her home turned into a “construction staging area.”
She shared the story this year during candidate forums leading to Nov. 6, when she was elected to the Huntington Beach City Council.
The once-self-described passive observer will step to the dais Dec. 3 alongside reelected council members Mike Posey, Barbara Delgleize and Erik Peterson.
Carr won 10.6% of the votes among the 15 candidates for four available council seats, good for third place, just ahead of Peterson. Council members serve four-year terms.
“What you see is what you get with me,” Carr said in an interview.
She visited City Hall this week to see where she’ll settle in and said she’s excited to get to work.
Fighting high-density development, repairing aging infrastructure and maintaining open spaces and public safety are issues of concern to Carr, but she said her top priority will be addressing an increase in homelessness in the city.
She wants to increase the number of police officers and case workers assigned to the city’s Homeless Task Force, which currently includes one outreach coordinator, two full-time officers and four case managers.
With 226 homeless people estimated to have achieved housing or relocation with the task force’s help last month, Carr said she’d like to provide more resources to help it be more effective.
She also believes every city should have some sort of transitional housing.
“I have a lot of maybe ambitious ideas, so I know I may not be able to achieve all of our goals. But I want to at least have the discussion,” Carr said. “I really believe people will come to the table with an open mind and willingness to work together.”
Some were surprised when election returns showed Carr ahead of two incumbents — Peterson and Billy O’Connell, the latter of whom was not reelected.
Carr got endorsements from the Huntington Beach police and firefighters associations, though other candidates, such as Ron Sterud, received endorsements from top city officials including Peterson, Councilwoman Lyn Semeta and City Attorney Michael Gates.
The election of Carr, a Democrat, adds a progressive voice to a generally conservative council, though city leaders said they don’t believe differing political ideologies will be an issue when advocating for the greater good of the community.
“The council is bipartisan. I think good leaders approach it that way,” said Semeta, who is expected to be selected the next mayor pro tem.
Semeta said Carr will bring an “interesting dynamic” to the new female majority on the council and that she looks forward to working with her.
Carr’s experience on the city Public Works Commission the past five years as an appointee of Councilwoman Jill Hardy, also a Democrat, is an asset council members said they believe will be beneficial. The seven-member commission is responsible for reviewing and recommending capital improvement projects and programs to the City Council. It also oversees oil pipeline and traffic control device permits issued by the Public Works Department.
Councilman Patrick Brenden, who worked alongside Carr on the commission in 2013 and 2014, described her as “serious, thorough and logical” and said he could collaborate with her on quality-of-life issues.
With 15% of the city’s budget dedicated to public works, Posey — the current mayor — said Carr would be helpful on articulating why certain projects should be of greater importance.
“We have a $200,000 backlog of capital improvement for public works,” he said. “We’re working on the possibility of getting gas tax money and how we [would] spend [those funds to] maintain our streets and synchronization of lighting. I think she’ll have a good background on that.”
Posey said he believes she also will raise the council’s “intellectual bar.”
Differing perspectives, Posey said, help him rethink positions when challenged by colleagues such as Hardy, and he expects the same from Carr.
Gates said he expects harmony and cooperation on the council.
“I think she’ll be a good fit with the direction the city has been going in resisting high-density development and things like that, so I guess I’m just hoping for the best,” he said.
Carr is a former media sales manager for a San Diego TV station, where she developed marketing and advertising campaigns for clients. She has a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Cal State Fullerton.
During the past 20 years, she has volunteered for the Huntington Beach Community Garden, the Seacliff Elementary Parent Teacher Assn., Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguards and more.
Carr said she enjoys visiting Sunset Beach in her downtime and going camping with her husband and two teenage children in her 2003 Volkswagen Eurovan.