November 12, 2010 4:00 PM
HESPERIA • Although the Hesperia City Council was spared in the anti-incumbent wave that swept through Victor Valley on Election Day, look for a very different City Council in December.
The lone incumbent in the race, Mayor Thurston “Smitty” Smith, was reelected. Two two-term council members, Ed Pack and Rita Vogler, who chose not to run for reelection, will be gone. And two new candidates, Russ Blewett and Bill Holland will be replacing them.
“There’s definitely going to be a more pro-job-creation council, I think, than there has been in the past,” said Blewett. He and Holland both ran on a pro-business, job-creation platform. Hesperia currently has an 18 percent unemployment rate. “I think that’s the community’s No. 1 need: To do things that we can do as councilmen to create jobs. That includes being much more business-friendly and going out and trying to attract businesses to the community and also nurturing the ones that are already there.”
The past year has seen long-time political alliances on the council fracture, with Vogler and her husband Al breaking with Smith and fellow councilman Mike Leonard (both of whom the Voglers had supported in prior election years) having a very messy and very public parting of the ways. Councilman Paul Bosacki, who had previously been an ally of Smith and Leonard’s, sided with the Voglers in the split, but now finds himself serving alongside them, as well as with Blewett, whom he sparred with during Blewett’s 2008 run for the council.
“I think there’s a four-person council majority and I’m the odd person out,” Bosacki said.
“I don’t think there’s talk of necessarily a ‘power bloc’ or anything like that,” said Smith. “With Russ and Bill Holland coming on, I still think we’re going to move forward with the city. We’ll see, in due time, if we’re going to agree to disagree. … To me, it’s whatever’s best for the city.”
Blewett agrees: “I would hope that everybody of the same mind, that the number one issue is job creation and that’s certainly going to be my thrust,” he said. “I don’t think there is a controlling bloc.”
Beyond the unemployment issue, the city council faces the prospect of limited revenue tying their hands until the economy turns around.
In August, Smith, Leonard and Blewett all loudly opposed a half-cent sales tax hike officials had said would close a $1.3 million hole in the budget. (Holland also said he favored attracting new businesses to generate revenue, rather than raising taxes.)
“Now it looks like we’re going to have Blewett, Smith and Leonard on the council to explain to the public how we’re going to balance the budget without that additional revenue,” said Bosacki, who had supported putting the issue before voters on the ballot. “I’m really looking forward to that.”
One thing everyone can agree on: They’re hoping the contentious tone of recent council meetings is coming to an end.
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