11 are running for one vacant seat in Upland
Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 07/23/2011 07:06:24 AM PDT

UPLAND – There are 11 people running for one vacant seat on the City Council this summer, making it difficult for voters to evaluate who is the most qualified for the job.

To address this, the Upland Chamber of Commerce posed a question to all candidates asking them what experience they have that qualifies them to make decisions that impact residents, businesses, city employees and city operations.

They are all running for a vacancy on the council that was created in February when former Councilman Ray Musser was appointed mayor.

The candidates gave their responses during a forum held on Monday at Upland High School.

Ladan Bezanson, a learning coordinator for Montclair, is the only candidate who currently works for a city government.

She said her work for Montclair has made her understand the aspects of working for a city.

“I understand how to develop solutions to problems when we’re faced with them,” she said. “We currently have to renew our grant every year and in order to do that we have to solve several problems just to get there.”

Bezanson said she does research prior to making many decisions.

“I don’t know all the information but what I can promise is I will do the research,” she said.

Elaine Courey is not a politician, but a teacher, she said.

“I decided to run for this office because I want to learn more about our city and what better way than being a City Council person. What better classroom?” said Courey, a Bonita Unified School District teacher. “I’m not only a teacher I’m team player. I’m fair. I’m positive and I’m honest.”

Courey is also a woman.

“Back in the ’90s we had three women that were on the council throughout the years,” she said. “I’m here to tell you that I feel a woman would add a new and different perspective to our City Council and I can make that happen.”

Bob “Bubba” DeJournett is a retired Upland teacher, retired Monrovia police officer and softball coach, to which he attributes his ability to make decisions and work with people.

“With my education experience working with thousands of students over the last 20 years and parents, it’s given me a real deal of experience working with people,” he said. “My police experience has given me a great deal of decision-making ability. Sometimes on the fly making decisions in real life.”

DeJournett acknowledged the candidates’ vast experience.

“Dealing with real life situations gives me the experience I need to make the right educated decision as a City Council member,” he said.

Sam Fittante, retired owner of a lawn maintenance company, said the current City Council is being asked the same question.

“Apparently they haven’t made any of the right decisions,” Fittante said. “They’ve given away money, hiring the wrong people and working for somebody that I was told intimidated them and I can’t believe they had no idea what was going on with our past mayor.”

Fittante said he wants to keep City Hall “illuminated.”

“My phone, my home will be open to anybody any time of the day or night,” he said. “I like eyeball-to-eyeball conversation. I’m not into email. If you have a problem come talk to me.”

Eric Gavin, a computer software architect, shared two qualities he has that he believes a public official should possess – being able to admit when you’re wrong and asking questions.

“I hate nothing more than somebody who can tell that they’re wrong and they just keep fighting it,” Gavin said. “The moment I’m wrong I like to say, `Look, stop, I think I was wrong about that. I think you’re right. Teach me. Let me know.”‘

He’s also a “big questions guy,” he said.

“I like to think I have a lot of answers, but I have questions first before answers,” he said.

Dan Morgan, the Upland city treasurer, served as a councilman in El Monte from 1984-92.

“My experience there was based on my independent, open-minded thinking,” Morgan said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of representing the people and meeting their needs, so it was a tremendous opportunity for me.”

He was elected treasurer in 2008.

“I understand the financial restraints the city is currently under. The recession hit here in the U.S. in 2008. It affected businesses immediately, but now it is affecting governments across the board, and it’s because there’s just not enough sales tax and property to keep things going we need reformed pensions, that is for sure.”

As a commercial real estate agent, Steven Roppel has participated in the bidding process, similar to what the city does.

“The city of Upland is totally wanting in making sure the bid process works,” Roppel said. “I’ve been involved with many bid processes before in my career as a commercial real estate agent.”

The city has had problems with bids and there has been some conflict of interest, he said, and officials should recuse themselves if they may have a conflict.

“Then once the bid is awarded we need to make sure the work is done correctly and then re-evaluated in the future to make sure that it is a qualified vendor,” Roppel said.

Debbie Stone is a funeral director at Stone Funeral Home, so she works with residents during the worst time of their lives.

“I must not only comfort them but solve problems and come to an acceptable solution for all involved,” Stone said. “Isn’t that what a City Council member should do?”

She said he has managed more than 215 employees at eight different locations.

“I’ve had to reduce not only employees, but facilities as well in order to control cost and maintain a healthy business,” Stone said. “I have the ability to make hard decisions based on the facts. Decisions that will ensure there is a city of Upland in the future.”

Maureen Sundstrom said as an attorney she’s faced with making difficult decisions every day.

“They impact the lives of my clients,” she said. “They impact the lives of people who file for arbitration with the Better Business Bureau. I have no issues making decisions fairly.”

Sundstrom, who also has a background in accounting, is self-employed and believes cuts to city employees should be made fairly.

“I understand what it’s like to have a business that I have to keep running,” she said. “What the bottom line is, what the profit is. What’s worthwhile. What’s not. I also worked for other companies and supervised a large staff.”

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