By Katta Hules
The votes are in and Arcadia has elected two new members of the city council. Peter Amundson and April Verlato are all set to fill in the two empty council seats with over 3,600 votes each. The race between the two was neck and neck. At the end they were only 25 votes apart, with Amundson edging out Verlato for the lead.
Arcadia Weekly learned Wednesday afternoon that there are approximately 1,300 outstanding votes still yet to be counted. The final count will take place on April 21. All ballots returned with a post date of the April 12 will be counted. The winning candidates will be sworn in on April 26.
Amundson described the election as “nail-biting,” as he watched the scores for each precinct being posted in the council chambers. “Most people thought it was a three-horse race and they were right,” he said, including the runner-up Bob Harbicht in his statement. Amundson is a former councilmember and mayor of Arcadia.
Verlato called it a “very competitive campaign” in a phone interview after the results were in, going on to say, “I credit all the candidates for a good fight.” She is “excited about serving my community” although, she says she will have a lot to learn and warns she will not “be able to change that much at first.” Verlato is the former president of the Save the Highlands group and current president of the Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association.
The other candidates did not garner so many votes. Harbicht, a 20-year veteran of the city council and former mayor was the next runner up. “I’m proud that I ran a clean campaign, never mentioning another candidate in any of my literatures or comments,” said Harbicht in an email from his timeshare in Hawaii. He was nearly 500 votes behind the winners.
Former Mayor Sheng Chang followed, almost 1,000 votes behind Harbicht, putting him at over 2,200. Sergeant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Burton Brink came next with just over 1,000 votes. Neither Chang nor Brink was available for comment as of this publication.
Insurance agent Paul Van Fleet brought up the rear with just under 100 votes. “It was a strong field,” said Van Fleet, pointing out he had been up against three former mayors. He is proud of running a clean campaign though, and not taking any donations although he admitted he would probably have to spend more money next time around. He was hoping to finish with over 100 votes, he said, glancing up at his double-digit tally on the projection screen in the council chambers. However, he insisted he would not give up but would instead “learn to sell myself” because he wants to give back to the city. “2018 starts today!” he proclaimed.
In addition to the city councilmembers, voters re-elected City Clerk Gene Glasco, who won in an unopposed landslide. “It’s an honor to serve again,” said Glasco with a smile, “I can’t say I was competing with anybody but it’s nice to see so many voting.” Turnout was a lot bigger than it was two years ago, he said.
Also on the ballot was the controversial Measure A, the ban on the Utility User’s Tax. The Measure was voted down 4,910 to 2,735. Larry Papp, the co-signer of the Measure attributes the loss to a lack of resources, saying their campaign had less than $10,000, including $800 of his own money, to spend while the opposition spent around $60,000 and used city newsletters, inserts, and tax dollars. “It tells me that people don’t pay attention to facts and fear is the greatest motivator,” Papp said, from his seat in the second row of the council chambers, but insisted he was not bitter, “no sour grapes, what is, is.”
Papp plans to continue to speak out about city spending and coming to council meetings, but the octogenarian is not sure he will be fighting the tax next time around as “I’m getting a little old to do it again.” He expressed hope someone else would come along and take up the cause. However, he said, “I think we did some good and brought attention to facts that have never been brought to attention” during his lifetime.
All six candidates were opposed to the Measure. Verlato said she was “glad to see” it defeated. Harbicht said if the Measure had passed it would have “fundamentally change[d] Arcadia for the worse and cripple[d] the services we provide to our citizens.”
The election figures as of Wednesday, April 13, are as follows:
Peter Amundson: 3,634.
April Verlato: 3,609.
Bob Harbicht: 3,196.
Sheng Chang: 2,260.
Burton Brink: 1,049.
Paul Van Fleet: 82.
Gene Glasco: 4,673.
Measure A: for – 2,735, against – 4,910.
There are 1,300 outstanding votes still yet to be counted. The final count will take place on April 21. All ballots returned with a post date of the April 12 will be counted. The winning candidates will be sworn in on April 26.