Rick Gunter, who served on the city’s Planning Commission for nine years before terming out last April, might be challenging two incumbent City Council candidates in the March 3 election, but he doesn’t see himself as an outsider candidate.
“I’m clearly the establishment candidate,” Gunter, 55, said in an interview Tuesday. “I’m not the same as current council members — I have different passions and different skills — [but] I’m the La Cañada guy.”
Gunter spent formative years in La Cañada as a teenager, attending Foothill Intermediate School and graduating from La Cañada High School in 1982. He went on to study architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he met future wife, Denise.
After graduating in 1991, the couple moved around for work before settling into family life in Denver. In 2006, when daughter Hannah and son Andrew were still young, they decided to move to La Cañada.
“It was time to come home,” he recalled.
Gunter coached for the La Cañada Junior Baseball Assn. and a volunteered as a lector at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church before joining the Planning Commission in 2010.
Today, as a principal at HKS Architects, Gunter leads teams in charge of building sports stadiums, including Inglewood’s new SoFi Stadium, future home of the Los Angeles Rams and the Chargers.
He said the skills he uses on the job are similar to those he employed as a commissioner — diving into complex issues, actively listening and communicating with others in a practical and understandable manner.
Now he’s ready to do more.
“I’ve developed the skills that will help me take it to the next level, where now I can actually change the laws I’d been enforcing for eight years,” he said.
Though he says he’s not an issues candidate, Gunter said he’d prioritize maintaining local control in the face of state and regional mandates and creating a deeper working partnership with La Cañada school officials.
In the area of public safety, Gunter believes residents, city officials and law enforcement each have roles to play. He pointed to the city’s Ring video doorbell rebate program and the potential purchase of Flock license plate reader cameras as good steps for the city.
Gunter believes residents need to invest in audible alarms, neighborhood watch groups and other crime prevention measures, while sheriff’s officials need to be open about what resources would best help fight burglary crews.
“If they learn our town’s a hard target, they’re going to go somewhere else,” he said.
In the area of development, Gunter sees himself as a supporter of local businesses and would like to clear red tape that keeps projects halted, while still maintaining the city’s character.
“You have to take the long view when you’re looking to evolve and improve,” he said. “You have to look at what’s important — schools, families and communities — and make sure improvements don’t harm what’s important.”