Although the filing period hasn't yet opened, both incumbent Atherton City Council members whose terms end this year have told the Almanac they plan to run for re-election in November. Current Mayor Elizabeth Lewis will run for a third term and Councilman Cary Wiest for a second term.
Both candidates say they are in the middle of several significant projects in Atherton, including a new civic center, that they want to see through completion.
Elizabeth Lewis. (Courtesy Elizabeth Lewis)
Cary Wiest. (Almanac file photo)
"I'm truly honored to be able to serve and represent the residents of Atherton," Ms. Lewis said on July 6. "I believe we are doing really good things and there are unfinished projects that were started back in 2013 with the (civic center) master plan."
"The work that we're doing in the town with the civic center I've worked really long and hard on that," she said. "It's an important project that I'd like to see completed."
She said two other projects putting into place the recommendations of the town's Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan and working to make El Camino Real safer are "very important to me."
Ms. Lewis said she also believes the current council members work well together. "We have a really, really good council mix that should continue for the next two to four years," she said.
That is a change from her first six years on the council when Ms. Lewis often found herself, along with Councilman Jerry Carlson, on the losing end of 3-2 council votes. When Mr. Carlson left the council in mid-2013 because he was moving from Atherton, the council could not come to an agreement on an appointment to complete his term.
Now, however, council members often vote unanimously on items, although, Ms. Lewis said, they do have "spirited discussions."
Ms. Lewis has in the past said that she thought council members should only serve two terms.
"What I have discovered in working with San Mateo County regional elected (officials) in the boards I serve on," she said, "is that three terms, 12 years, is the magic number."
Having experience has helped her fill important regional roles, Ms. Lewis said. She has been very involved in C/CAG, the City/County Association of Governments, and was the chair of San Mateo County's Council of Cities last year. She is vice chair of the San Francisco Airport Roundtable.
"I feel like I'm doing very effective work," she said.
Mr. Wiest also says he has unfinished projects he'd like to see through as a council member. "We're going in such a nice, healthy direction for the town," he said. "So many things are in motion."
Having four years of experience under his belt is also helpful, Mr. Wiest said. "It's hard to get up to speed," he said. But, he added, the council now has a good blend of both new members and those who have been around for a while. (Council member Bill Widmer is half-way through his second term, while Rick DeGolia is in his third year and Mike Lempres in his second.)
Mr. Wiest said he's learned a few things during his first term on the council, including that "things don't happen overnight."
He's also learned, he said, that it's just not possible for a single person to accomplish anything without cooperation from the rest of the council. He said he feels council members are now "working together as a group to accomplish, in essence, the people's goals." Council members, and town staff, have gotten better at listening to the town's residents, he said.
"Even though things don't happen overnight, they're happening," he said.
During a second term, Mr. Wiest said the major project he'd like to see completed is the civic center. The town's current offices are crumbling and costing a lot to keep in operable condition, he said, adding that the condition of the offices "is deplorable."
He said he also hopes to see the town continue to work at putting into place many of the objectives of the master plans it has adopted, including those for drainage, bicycle and pedestrian circulation and, now underway, El Camino Real.
Traffic is a real concern, especially with development in cities on either side of Atherton. "We've got to figure out how we can move bodies around," he said, including the 6,500 students who come into Atherton each day to attend schools in the town.
He'd also like to see the railroad quiet zone the town recently established near Fair Oaks Lane be expanded to include the Watkins Avenue crossing. "It's not an issue of safety that's really not why that horn's being blown. It's an issue of quality of life for those residents along that corridor," he said.
Mr. Wiest said he would also like to see the town continue to make sure it has reduced its long-term liabilities, mostly for employees' retirement costs, as much as possible. While the economy is currently good, it may not always be, he said.
"Right now we're OK, but we don't know what it's going to be like in the future," he said.