By Katta Hules
New Council Member April Verlato was not counting on being elected, “I didn’t expect to win but I felt that I should … get my name out there.” Verlato ran in last month’s election to bring fresh blood to a candidate pool that already contained three former mayors. “I felt that there needed to be a new representative for the city.” Much to her surprise, she and the current Mayor Pro-Tem Peter Amundson won in a landslide.
Verlato, a lawyer born and raised in Arcadia, was active in the community even before running for city council. She served on the Highland Oaks Elementary School Site Council from 2014-15, where her youngest child still attends; volunteered for four years as a Foundations in Art Docent for her two children’s classrooms; and served as the Architectural Review Board Chair for the Highlands Homeowners Association from 2015-16. She was president of Saving Arcadia and part of the Save the Highlands group, during which time she spearheaded the anti-mansionization ballot measure as well as the fight for a set floor-to-area ratio. Verlato left her position as president in order to run for council. In addition, she helped found the Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association (AIA) in 2014 and serves as the AIA’s president.
The council member credits her work as a lawyer with helping her navigate her new public role. Having a legal background “gets you the foundations of what’s expected of a representative and what needs to be done,” she says. In her practice, Verlato handles personal injury issues and litigation, in addition to estate planning and probate law. “And you know, just dealing with people in difficult situations.” She took over her father’s practice on Huntington Drive in 2000 after graduating with a law degree from Southwestern University.
Her work with the AIA has also helped prepare her for the council. Due to the association’s semi-public nature as a Community Benefit District (CBD), being on the board is akin to being on the council because “we are assessing property owners and hav[e] a budget that we’re determining how to spend. It’s very similar to what the city does but much smaller,” she says with a laugh, “Much, much smaller.”
CBDs “strive to improve the overall quality of life in targeted commercial districts and mixed-use neighborhoods through a partnership between the city and local communities,” according to San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. San Francisco is a pioneer in the field with 14 CBDs. Areas with CBDs are “levied a special assessment to fund improvements to their neighborhood.” These funds are then distributed by organizations like the AIA.
Although Verlato had the advantage of law experience and her work with the AIA to prepare her, she was not expecting one minor detail: the sheer number of meetings. “There’s a lot more meetings than I thought there would be. [I] thought there was just the city council meetings,” she says. “But I’m enjoying the experience.”
Verlato has two big goals for her time in office. The first and foremost is addressing the uptick in residential burglaries, a goal she believes is shared by her all fellow council members. “I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t believe that it’s not an issue. It’s not just an issue in our city but an issue throughout the state of California … on a city level we need to figure out what we can do to help try to alleviate some of this increase.”
Though burglary is sometimes referred to as “low level crime,” Verlato is firm in her belief such offenses need to be taken seriously. “When you’re the victim of this ‘low level’ crime, it doesn’t feel so low level.”
Her other goal is to improve Arcadia’s business districts, an issue close to her heart. “Of course you know I’m focused on Downtown Arcadia because I’m also on the board of the Improvement Association but I think all of our business corridors need the attention and support of city council.” Verlato considers these areas critical to the city. “A very concrete way to increase revenues for a city is to improve its business districts. The city needs to always be looking for ways to increase revenues that don’t tax the residents.”
“I’m enjoying learning about how the city works behind the scenes,” says Verlato who is “looking forward to serving the community for the next four years.” Catch the new council member at the upcoming city council meeting on June 7 at 7 p.m.