John Von Holle wants to make one thing clear: If he's elected to the Huntington Beach City Council, he won't be a stranger at City Hall.
In fact, he won't be a stranger at city halls, period.
The 18-year resident grew up amid politics in Cheviot, Ohio, where his father and grandfather served as treasurer and two of his uncles were mayor and fire chief. But Von Holle particularly knows the ins and outs of Surf City, where he held a job in the Public Works Department for more than three decades and spent two terms as president of the city's Municipal Employees Assn.
"I come from a very unique perspective, because I actually know how the city works," said Von Holle, who retired from his job last November to devote time to his council campaign.
In a council race that includes city commissioners, small business owners, school board trustees and a recent high school graduate, Von Holle has positioned himself as an insider. On his campaign website, he claims that he has "walked over virtually every square foot of Huntington Beach" in the course of designing infrastructure plans, drafting city ordinances and more.
In addition to his behind-the-scenes work, Von Holle is trumpeting his reputation as a community volunteer. He has managed volunteers for the Pacific Shoreline Marathon and provided rides for seniors through the city's Surf City Seniors on the Go program. Thirty-one years ago, he created the shuttle service for the city's Fourth of July parade and has run it ever since, personally driving one of the shuttles.
And while Von Holle is busy campaigning, he has another project in the works for November: the Surf City Beach Cruise, a classic car show to raise money for disabled veterans Nov. 13. Aiding the military is a personal passion for Von Holle, who served with the Navy in Vietnam and whose son has served in Iraq.
Von Holle moved to Orange County in 1970 after his discharge and took a job with Huntington in 1974. From 2000 to 2004, he oversaw the Municipal Employees Assn., which works with police, fire and other unions regarding salary, health care and other employment issues.
It's those decades of experience that netted Von Holle one of his most valuable endorsements, from Assemblyman Jim Silva (R-Huntington Beach), who served on the City Council from 1988 to 1994. As a councilman and mayor, Silva said, he often relied on Von Holle for information.
"I could always go to John and he'd be a problem solver," Silva said. "I think as a council member, he would have the same attitude and philosophy."
Von Holle supports the Poseidon desalination plant and the senior center in Huntington Central Park. He favors fixing the city's decayed infrastructure, but doesn't support Measure O, the November ballot measure that would reserve 15% of the general fund for immediate infrastructure needs, which he believes would deplete funds from other necessities around town.
Von Holle said his deep budgetary background would serve him well on the dais during tough economic times.
"The idea used to be, if there's a problem, throw money at it," Von Holle said. "Well, we don't have that much money right now."