ORINDA--The candidate field for City Council elections in Lamorinda took until Wednesday evening to finalize this year, thanks to Orinda Mayor Sue Severson's decision not to seek re-election.

Severson, who took out the necessary paperwork to run for re-election, did not file her candidacy papers by last week's 5 p.m. Friday filing deadline, giving prospective candidates for that race an extension until Wednesday.

In the end, six people threw their names in the race for three open Orinda council seats. Incumbents Dean Orr and Amy Worth are both running, joined by Carlos Baltodano, a building safety consultant; Linda Delehunt, an education administrator; Eve Phillips, a technology entrepreneur; and Robert Thompson, an investment adviser.

Sue Severson listens to a speaker during a council meeting in Orinda, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. (Sherry LaVars/Staff)
Sue Severson listens to a speaker during a council meeting in Orinda, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. (Sherry LaVars/Staff)

Severson has a long history of civic involvement in Orinda. Before her stints on the City Council, which began in 2006, Severson was elected to the Orinda Union School District's board of trustees in 1993 and again in 1997. After two terms at the helm, she did not run again -- an act she said is guided by a personal philosophy that two terms is enough to make an impact and then make way for new blood.

"I feel like two terms is a good amount of time," Severson said. "In your first term you figure out what is going on and then in your second you can put your strengths and energies into the board. Stepping down allows others to bring in their new perspectives and fresh energies."


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That's the primary reason that she's not running again, she said -- and to spend more time with her 18 grandchildren and volunteering for other causes important to her, like the Orinda Community Foundation -- a nonprofit she helped launch in 2010 to fill the funding gap to community activities left over after deep budget cuts during the recession.

Severson said her decision to step away from the council is unrelated to recent criticism by the community activist group Orinda Watch, which boasts over 1,400 members, and whose chief issue has been opposition to what they see as a push by regional associations to build high-density, low-income housing in Orinda.

"I think Orinda has a lot of committed people, a lot of passionate people," Severson said. "That's good, but hopefully they're part of a positive solution. Some are just there to grandstand."

Her latest mayoral term started off with an apology for violating council policy by discussing a proposed preschool project with a developer, and with the city's planning commission chair in an informal meeting, before the commission addressed it publicly.

Fellow council member Vice Mayor Steve Glazer said he knew Severson was considering whether or not to run, and that he'll miss her presence on the dais.

"We'll lose the benefit of her experience and her insight on the council," he said. "In terms of the election, it'll be a spirited campaign -- not just to replace her, but to get on the council in general."

MORAGA SEES LONE CHALLENGER

In Moraga, three candidates are vying for two seats. Incumbent city council members Mayor Ken Chew and Dave Trotter are running for re-election against challenger Teresa Onoda.

Onoda is a local artist and a second term planning commissioner who has lived in Moraga since 1989, according to her campaign filings.

"I'm working hard to protect Moraga's semirural atmosphere," Onoda said. "I don't think everyone is trying to do that, and I really am. My votes in the planning commission reflect that, too."

If elected, Onoda would be the only woman on Moraga's Town Council.

Chew was first elected to the council in 2006, and re-elected in 2010. He is a civil engineer and served as a planning commissioner in 2003, before he joined the council. Among the issues listed as important to him on his candidate website are preservation of Moraga's ridgelines and open spaces and building a "solid general fund reserve."

Like Chew, Trotter joined the council in 2006 and was re-elected the following term. Trotter is a lawyer with Bowles & Verna in Walnut Creek, focusing on land use planning and real estate and environmental law. He served as mayor in 2013 and, according to his campaign statement is dedicated to protecting Moraga's ridgelines -- as evidenced by his solo dissenting vote against the Rancho Laguna II ridgeline development in 2011.

LAFAYETTE MAY FORSAKE ELECTION

With no challengers to city council incumbents Don Tatzin and Brandt Andersson, and no local tax measures on the ballot, Lafayette's City Council will have to decide Aug. 20 whether or not to hold an election in November.

By law, a local election becomes optional when there are no challengers or tax measures on the ticket. The cost savings for the city if the council decides not to hold an election can range from $15,000 to $80,000, depending on which districts are also hosting items on the ballot, City Clerk Joanne Robbins said.

"I assume this reflects a general satisfaction of the job we're doing," incumbent Vice Mayor Brandt Andersson said Tuesday, "and I'm looking forward to the next four years."

For his part, Tatzin said he sees things a bit differently.

"It takes two things for people to run," Tatzin said. "A desire to run because they can do a better job and having the time to commit," he said, before adding that he wasn't sure which of the two reasons was responsible for the small Lafayette field this year.

But the two incumbents agreed on one thing -- that not campaigning for the next few months would free them up to focus on other city issues.

In their last election in 2010, each incumbent came in solidly ahead of challengers Traci Reilly and Dino Riggio, with Tatzin garnering 33 percent of the vote and Andersson winning 30 percent.

Jennifer Baires covers Orinda, Lafayette and Moraga. Contact her at 925-943-8378. Follower her at twitter.com/jenniferbaires.