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By Janis Russell

July 4, 2016 (Rancho San Diego) - The East County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual ‘Politics in Paradise’ at the Water Conservation Garden on July 1st. This year, instead of a panel of speakers, the public got to mix and mingle with the local candidates. Then, throughout the night, candidates came up in three different groups to introduce themselves and explain why they’re running.

ECM got a chance to interview a few candidates before they were brought up in groups to the front.

ECM first interviewed Lemon Grove City Council candidate Charlene McAdory (right), on why she was running. McAdory said, “[The Lemon Grove residents] want to see improvements in their city…I need a chance to be a voice to implement new ideas.” She wants to focus on the city’s infrastructure and increasing sidewalks.

Another candidate for Lemon Grove City Council, David Arambula, agreed with McAdory on increasing the sidewalks, especially for kids as they walk to and from school.  Arambula also believed in “a strong working relationship with the public safety corps” to create a dialogue and express concerns over public safety with “respect and mutual interest.”

ECM then spoke with Mason Herron, who is running for Santee City Council. “Santee has a lot of potential for the future…I’d like to bring new ideas and leadership,” he said.

Stephen Houlahan, Santee City Council candidate, told ECM, “I grew up in Santee…I was fully educated by the Santee school district…I have a home in Santee.” He explained, “I have concerns about the traffic. Commute times have grown in the last few years…I believe we need traffic solutions before increased density.” Houlahan also believed that if someone lives in a nice community such as Santee, the person needs to stand up and fight for their community.

Dustin Trotter, Santee City Council candidate, told ECM, “It’s my next level of community service… I’ve been doing volunteerism for a long time.”

After East County Chamber president Eric Lund gave the welcome, he introduced Barry Jantz, CEO of Grossmont Healthcare District, as the MC for the night.

ECM later interviewed Paul Circo, El Cajon City Council candidate. “I started on the planning commission (for the last seven years).” This year, he has been told to run for El Cajon City Council 16 times. “I hope to continue the same policies from the planning commission,” he added. He’s always liked how El Cajon has been “semi-urban”, and he would like to keep it that way. Circo doesn’t want downtown El Cajon to be like downtown San Diego. (His LinkedIn page is: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-circo-035b8a26.)

Jantz first brought up Lemon Grove City Council and mayoral candidates. The rules were to come up with a one minute elevator speech on who they were and why they were running.

Racquel Vasquez, left, who is currently a Lemon Grove city councilmember, is running for the mayor of Lemon Grove. “It’s an honor to serve our city…I’ve been reaching out to [the people of] Lemon Grove…  The people of Lemon Grove want a business friendly city…this is my vision of Lemon Grove.” (You can check out her website: http://www.racquelvasquez.com/. Her Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Racquel-Vasquez-242143892480791/.)

Arambula spoke next. He is a Marine vet. “I’m the type of person who hits the ground running,” he stated. According to his candidacy announcement letter, his goal is to “help build a safe, vibrant and livable Lemon Grove that we can call home.” 

His plans include, “protecting our neighborhoods by working closely with law enforcement and residents to develop an open and respectful dialogue for the mutual exchange of ideas on our community needs and developing realistic strategies to best achieve those needs. I also plan to develop specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic and time-sensitive goals in the following areas: affordable housing, making Lemon Grove more pedestrian/bicycle friendly, serving seniors by listening to their concerns and taking prompt action to fulfill those needs that are reasonable within the City Council’s purview and authority; making local government accountable to our residents by reviewing city processes and making use of technology to serve residents affordably and quickly.” He would like to make sure Lemon Grove will still stand out from other cities. He also wants to be sure that sidewalks, roadways, and drainage are getting improvements, and focus on “developing an economic growth plan that will focus on attracting new businesses while making sure that our current businesses are given the assistance they need to prosper and succeed.” (He can be reached at: arumbula4lemongrovecitycouncil@gmail.com.)

McAdory gave her speech. “I love the city of Lemon Grove which I live in,” she began. “My goal is to bring a lot of infrastructure to Lemon Grove.” According to her candidacy announcement letter, “My approach to new and/or improved initiatives will be to listen to the residents and businesses, to provide a new platform for citizen input…I work extremely well in teams and with diverse groups.” (She can be reached at: cmcadory4lgcc@gmail.com.)

Brian Jones, former Assemblyman, made an appearance and announced he will run for Senator Joel Anderson’s seat when Anderson’s term is up in 2018.

Next, Santee mayoral candidate and current Santee City Councilmember Rob McNelis (right) spoke. “I’m a proud resident of the city of Santee.” His motto has been, ‘Keep government out of your pocketbook and out of your home.’ (His website is: http://www.electrobmcnelis.com/. His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/MayorMcNelis/.)

Houlahan then gave his speech. He has a Bachelor’s in nursing, a Master’s, and MBA. He is currently a surgical director at Sharp Memorial. He is also president of Save Mission Trails. He brought up the traffic problem on state route 52, and how new development is coming up including Castle Rock.  (His website is: https://stephenhoulahan.org/. His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/ElectStephenHoulahan/.)

Herron spoke. “I’ve been district director for Brian Jones.” He has seen the changes in Santee as he has grown up in East County.  (His website is: http://masonherron.org/.)

Trotter gave his speech. He has lived in East County his whole life. “I am a construction guy” he said, adding that he runs his own construction business that has employees and creates jobs. (His website is: http://www.dustintrotter92071.com/home.html. His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Dustin-Trotter-for-Santee-City-Council-2016-130586157283176/.)

Lemon Grove Councilmember George Gastil, who’s running for mayor of Lemon Grove, spoke next. “It’s an honor to be here… We [as a small city] have big dreams… I’ve been on the school board of Lemon Grove for 10 years” and on City Council.” He is focused on “building a better, stronger community” and more walkable communities.  (His website is: http://georgegastil.com/. His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeGastilforLemonGroveCityCouncil.)

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob also made a brief appearance. “Thank you to all of you that have supported my re-election…I’m not running again,” said Jacob, who won reelection outright in June but will be retiring in four years due to term limits.

Lakeside water board Division 4 candidate Steve Robak (left) spoke. “I’ve been running a plumbing company…I’ve been on the Lakeside planning board since 2014.” He believes his plumbing experience and knowledge can be beneficial on the water board.

Steve Goble, El Cajon City Council candidate, spoke next. “I believe there is a story to be told in El Cajon.” He believes he can use his skills as marketing executive on the Council. “I want that guy to add that fresh perspective, that business perspective…”

George Glover, El Cajon City Council candidate, gave a speech. “I currently serve on the veterans committee and the East County Chamber veterans commission round table.”

In his speech, Circo mentioned how he had helped introduce the chicken ordinance on the El Cajon planning commission.

Stephanie Harper, El Cajon City Council candidate, said, “I love my city… I want to see it not be the poorest city anymore.” She also wants to see the East County Performing Arts Center re-opened and the new animal shelter open.  (Her website is: http://www.votesharper2016.com/.  Her Facebook page is: http://votesharper2016.com/#!about/facebook.)

The board candidates spoke next, starting with Grossmont Healthcare board.

Bob Ayres, current board member, said, “I have been on the board for the last six years…it’s an honor to serve on the board.”

Michael Emerson, current board member, said, “I want to reach out to population health...so we can unite and bring a powerhouse in place…” He also urged the public, “pease elect all the incumbents” in November.

Jim Stieringer, Grossmont Union High School District board member, mentioned about the board being split into trustee districts. He is running to represent the La Mesa area.  He also added that there is an open seat for Spring Valley/Lemon Grove. “I’ve enjoyed being on the board…I’ve only served one term…”

Joseph Perricone, Alpine Union school board candidate, wants the public to consider whether a “school board person is for the children? School boards usually look out for adults.” He is for the kids, he said.

Mark Gracyk, Helix water board district 3 candidate, rounded out the speakers. He works at MCS Miramar. “I have served eight years on the Lemon Grove school board,” he noted. (His website is: http://mark4hwd.org/. His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Gracyk/100011788880166.)

La Mesa City Councilmember Kristine Alessio and Grossmont Healthcare District board candidate Art Madrid were invited to attend, but were not present.

Lund then mentioned the East County Chamber will get together with all the other Chambers and East County Economic Development Council to host ‘Politics in Paradise’ part 2 on September 29 at BNS Brewery in Santee. It will be a mixer format, and is free to attend.  Since the deadline to file to run for some local offices isn’t until August, there may be even more candidates in the running by then.

You can visit the San Diego East County Chamber’s website: http://eastcountychamber.org/ and check out the Events page for updates on this and other events.

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