Shortly after Joe Carchio was elected to his first term on the Huntington Beach City Council, he went for an orientation with the city's department heads. At one point, meeting an official, he launched into a spiel about all the things he wanted to accomplish in the coming months, only to be stopped short.
"She said, 'Joe, slow down,'" Carchio said. "'We go at government speed. We don't go at Joe speed.'"
It wasn't the first hard lesson Carchio learned about city politics — he had run unsuccessful campaigns in 2000, 2002 and 2004 — and it wasn't the last, as he endured his share of defeats on the dais over the ensuing year.
But with his first term behind him, the only incumbent in the council race is confident that his experience will pay off in November.
"They sent me there to do a job four years ago," Carchio said. "I just want to finish what I started."
'A very good man'
Carchio, the former owner of the Jersey Joe's restaurant downtown, laid out a series of specific goals after his successful campaign in 2006. He sought to eliminate remodeling fees for residents looking to update their homes, fix potholes and decrepit streets, and create affordable housing for employees who couldn't afford to live in the city.
Those goals have met with varying degrees of success. The council rejected the fee waiver by a 4-3 vote in 2007. Carchio has worked with city staff on fixing roads, although he acknowledged that work still needs to be done. And while he didn't get around to addressing the affordable housing issue, he plans to make it a priority if he's reelected.
But he did have successes in his first term. Last spring, he launched the Surf City Savings program, in which local businesses provide discounts and donate 1% of sales tax revenue to fund city services. The year before, he and now-Mayor Cathy Green spearheaded a push to bring the slogan "In God We Trust" to the Council Chambers.
And he organized a charity drive to benefit Haiti in January and served as a liaison to nine city boards and commissions.
"I think he does a lot of outreach," said former Mayor Ralph Bauer, who endorsed Carchio in 2006 and has done so again this year. "He tries to deal with the public at large. He comes to many different events. He's very visible and exposes himself to the public. I think he's a very good man."
Hits and misses
When Carchio won a spot on the council in 2006, he was the only new member sworn in, finishing behind three incumbents. He saw himself as unique in another way — when Carchio vowed to enter politics, he perceived a lack of businesspeople on the dais and wanted to give merchants a stronger voice.
"If you've been a public figure all your life, it's really hard to understand what businessmen go through," he said.
Carchio already had strong ties to the community, through both his restaurant and his many years coaching baseball and football at Ocean View High School. That didn't always translate to victories on the dais, though. During Carchio's first 16 months in office, he proposed two initiatives that failed — the ordinance to waive remodeling fees, then a proposal to offer free parking permits to owners of environmentally friendly cars. Soon after, he rankled some fellow council members when he called for a study on how to handle sex offenders, then withdrew it upon learning that the city already had a similar program.
Carchio, who admitted that he sometimes lacked "savvy" during his first months on the council, had more success later in 2008, putting the "God" logo in the chambers and getting unanimous support for putting emergency defibrillators in public facilities around town. Councilman Gil Coerper, who said he had doubts about Carchio at first, became an admirer before long.
"I didn't feel that he was a person that cared about the city of Huntington Beach, and then I found how wrong I was," Coerper said. "He is a very integral part of making sure that the citizens of Huntington Beach get a good representation of what they want."
Representing the community became a passion for Carchio, who sold his restaurant shortly after joining the council and devoted his free time to serving on boards. By the time he launched his reelection campaign, Carchio served as a liaison for the library, historic resources, neighborhood watch and more.
"I go to just about every event in the city," Carchio said. "I figure I can pick up the slack if the mayor can't go. I enjoy doing it. It's part of what you get elected for. If you can't represent your city, you shouldn't run for City Council."
He also bristled at the statements made recently by Team Huntington Beach — a coalition of former Mayor Connie Boardman, Joe Shaw and Blair Farley, all of whom are running for council this year — that the city's current leaders ignore residents' concerns. Boardman, in declaring her campaign, cited a July decision by the council to approve a housing development in Bolsa Chica, which many residents decried.
"There's 200,000 people who live in this city," Carchio said. "I don't know if it's the majority of the residents they're hearing. They'd have to convince me we're not listening to the majority of the residents. I think everyone who lives in this city isn't against responsible development. By responsible development, I don't mean tearing everything down and becoming another Los Angeles.
"I think we, as a council, have listened to the needs of the residents more than councils in the past."