The Boy Scouts teach many things: community service, integrity and responsibility.
As a former Eagle Scout and current scout leader for his two sons, Erik Peterson said it also instilled in him a sense of responsibility to improve his community.
"That's sort of how I got into the City Hall business — if you think you have the ability to help, you should," he said. "I truly believe in being a responsible voter and a responsible citizen."
That sense of civic responsibility, combined with insight into the workings of the city from his time on the Finance Board, moved Peterson to run for one of the four open seats on the Huntington Beach City Council.
The 42-year-old and longtime resident is up against 20 other candidates in the November election with few endorsements, but Peterson said he hasn't sought many, especially from the employee unions.
One of Peterson's other reasons for running is the city's payroll and benefits, which he said are up to 77% of the city's budget.
Peterson said he wants to sit down with the unions and negotiate, but that would be a sticky situation if he had gotten their backing during the elections.
He is being endorsed by Orange County Water District Trustee Noble Waite, who represents Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley. Waite said he is backing Peterson because of his support for the Poseidon Seawater Desalination Plant project and his plan to get the city back to financial stability.
"He seems to me to be a good, clean American boy," Waite said. "That is unusual these days."
Peterson said he owns a small communications business in Huntington Beach, but has executive experience in a larger business.
He has served on the city's Finance Board for about six months, has a bachelor's degree in business information services from the University of Phoenix and served five years in the Marine Corps.
Peterson said he is for the Poseidon project and the revenue it is expected to bring into the city, and the senior center in Huntington Central Park.
"The people voted for it — build it," he said. "Something needs to be done. That old senior center is an embarrassment."
As a small business owner, Peterson said Huntington Beach is not a business-friendly environment. He has watched his clients leave the city, seen the number of vacancies in his business complex and knows firsthand the number of fees and fines the city imposes.
Peterson said the city needs to entice companies to do business in Huntington by doing quicker plan checks, giving large companies a break on sales tax for a few years and subsidizing, or pro-rating, parking fees for downtown businesses.
Peterson said he also wants to keep the downtown small — he doesn't want to see it go up to Lake Street — and would like to see businesses for residents go in and would consider a moratorium on liquor licenses.
"Residents don't go down there; that's a problem," he said. "You want your residents to go downtown."