Two years ago, Redondo Beach took the unusual step of holding an all-mail election because only three candidates were running for two school board seats - and no challengers had emerged for two City Council district posts.
But this year is another story with different council seats at stake. Competitive races have shaped up in Districts 1, 2 and 4, with 10 candidates running in all on Tuesday's ballot.
Councilmen Steve Aspel of District 1 and Steve Diels of District 4 are termed out, leaving Councilman Bill Brand as the only incumbent in the running for council. The mayoral race, in contrast, features three council members: Aspel, along with District 3 Councilman Pat Aust and District 5 Councilman Matt Kilroy.
Also up for election is City Attorney Mike Webb, who is unopposed for a third term.
Unless a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held on May 14.
If the ballot isn't crowded enough, Redondo voters will also vote on a controversial measure that seeks to phase out power-generating uses at the waterfront AES site.
Aspel's departure in District 1 has opened the door for one of four candidates to take over: Jim Light, Jeff Ginsburg, Dianne Prado or Kim Fine.
The city's southernmost district runs south of Torrance Boulevard and takes in Riviera Village.
Light, an aerospace executive, ran for the seat once before in 2005 but was defeated by Aspel.
After it passed, Light and the citizens group Building a Better Redondo successfully fought the city in court for a public vote on a new waterfront zoning map.
And now with Brand, Light's a driving force behind Measure A, which seeks to make power generation and transmission at the AES site nonconforming uses by 2021. Light said he built the basic framework for the proposal, shared it with Brand, and then gathered public feedback before having it reviewed by attorneys.
The 53-year-old Light said he's running because it's time to "go from activist to actually participating in city government."
His platform also includes attracting new business and fighting to retain a healthy aerospace industry.
What's changed over the course of eight years, he said, is that he's gained more experience and has shown he can work with people on opposite sides of an issue.
"I've demonstrated my ability to work with stakeholders across the community," Light said. "I have a track record. My platform mirrors what I've been working for in the community for many years."
Ginsburg is another familiar name in District 1, where he's served on Riviera Village's Business Improvement District board since 2003. The BID helps to fund improvements such as new planters, banners and decorative lights.
Ginsburg, who runs a property management business, sits on the Public Works Commission, and several years ago graduated from a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored leadership program.
Ginsburg, 49, sees himself as "the type of guy that's good at bringing people together."
He's skeptical that AES would "hand over the keys" if Measure A passes, believing the initiative could eventually land the city in court.
Priorities include rehabilitating the town's infrastructure and increasing police staffing.
"If you're not enforcing the rules and the laws," Ginsburg said, "people slowly figure it out and things get worse."
It was a proposed wastewater fee increase that sparked Kimberly Fine's interest in city government.
Fine, 45, sells insurance and runs a time management business called Finding Time. As the city proposed the fee hike as a way to fund repairs to the sewer system, Fine said she was approached by an elderly neighbor who wanted help writing a protest letter.
Convinced the hike wasn't fair to people on fixed incomes, she eventually began handing out protest forms in local neighborhoods.
The rate hike ultimately passed, but Fine has held onto a feeling that city government is working as well as it should be.
"I just really care about the city, and I'm taking this from the point of extended community service," she said.
Her goals include making the city more business friendly and revitalizing the Pacific Coast Highway corridor. She declined to publicly state her views on Measure A. If elected, Fine said she'd forgo pension and health benefits.
The remaining District 1 candidate, Dianne Prado, sides with Light on the power plant ballot measure.
A nonprofit attorney who works with homeless veterans, she said she's driven by a philosophy that community service is a duty and a rewarding experience.
An animal advocate, Prado, 32, volunteers at the Carson shelter. The first city issue that caught her attention was a local prohibition against dogs in parks.
While Prado is fairly new to the town and has not served on any commissions, she said she believes residents could benefit from a "fresh face" and new perspective.
"I decided to take that leap because I think anyone should be able to take that leap," Prado said.
In District 2, which takes in the harbor, pier and power plant, Councilman Brand is trying to fend off challenges from Harbor Commission Chairman Michael Jackson and Susan Kowalski, a small business owner.
Brand, a 55-year-old American Airlines crew chief, is a vocal supporter of MeasureA, and, like Light, has split his time campaigning for office as well as support for the initiative.
"I'm carrying two brochures," he said.
More than a year into his term, Brand sought support from his colleagues to have the city attorney research the risks associated with rezoning the power plant property - a pledge he ran on in 2009 - but he didn't get any support. Later, when AES began talking about repowering the plant, both he and Light saw the need for residents to way in, he said.
The measure's passage would set new zoning - including 60 percent open space - and also pave the way for the California Energy Commission to perform an analysis to determine if a new power plant is needed, Brand said.
Giving residents the chance to weigh in on the issue is an important step that could help reshape the city's waterfront, Brand said. He believes the vote provides a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" in that it could ultimately lead to the plant's retirement.
Even so, he said the power plant is not his sole focus as a councilman, and that maintaining public safety and city services also are key.
But Jackson argues the power plant discussion has overshadowed other important issues in the district and city as a whole.
Jackson, who with his wife owns a firm that manages transportation infrastructure projects, has never run for office. But he said he decided to get more involved in the community after leaving behind his prior work in government relations.
Jackson today serves on the board of the Chamber of Commerce - which has endorsed him - along with the Harbor Commission, to which he was appointed in 2010.
He's been critical of Brand and other supporters of Measure A, saying he's put off by the emphasis they've placed on the initiative and the way they explain it. He argues outside agencies - namely the California Energy Commission - will ultimately decide the plant's fate.
"No one wants a power plant in their neighborhood. It's a matter of how you deal with it," Jackson said. "You don't do it by collecting signatures in front of supermarkets and drugstores by saying ... `Do you want to shut down AES? Sign here.' That's just factually incorrect."
Jackson, 58, said he'd focus more attention on preventing budget cuts to the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo and protecting neighborhoods.
Brand, in turn, argues that residents of the district are indeed concerned about the plant's future.
"I'm the incumbent. He's the challenger," Brand said. "So he's going to say I'm doing a lousy job."
The other name on the ballot belongs to Kowalski, 52, who owns a company that sells logo products to college bookstores.
The longtime city resident has never run for office but has a history of community service; she serves on the community advisory board of Torrance's Pediatric Therapy Network and is a member of the philanthropic group Sandpipers, having been elected Sandpiper of the Year for 2013-14.
The timing was right to run for office, she said.
"I had been talking about it for a couple years," Kowalski said. "I just decided to point my energy in a different direction."
She said she'd welcome the chance to work on waterfront revitalization plans and would encourage greater use of public transit and bike lanes.
Kowalski said she's against Measure A. "My bottom line is, I don't think we should tell people what to do with private property," she said.
With Diels out in District4, student Julian Stern, political consultant Stephen Sammarco and Library Commissioner Jan Jeffreys are vying for his seat.
The district is roughly bounded by Harper Avenue to the west, Artesia Boulevard and Mathews Avenue to the north, Hawthorne Boulevard to the east and 182nd Street and Harriman Lane to the south.
Stern is the Environmental Charter High School student who initially planned a write-in campaign because his 18th birthday would come after the filing deadline. But it was later determined he qualified for the ballot because he'd turn 18 and be a registered voter before March 5.
Stern's campaign is focused on government transparency, efficiency, quality of life and economic development, he said. He also wants to support the South Bay Galleria so it can stay competitive. (Nordstrom has announced it intends to move to Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance).
He's opposed to MeasureA, in part, because of concerns about lawsuits following its passage.
Stern might be less than half the age of the other contenders, a factor that led at least one woman he met while walking neighborhoods to tell him she'd prefer someone older. But he believes his age has helped him - "people know me by that," he said.
It hasn't cost him a key endorsement from the Chamber of Commerce. He's also enjoyed support from past and present elected leaders.
"I'm just very honored to have all the support I do," Stern said.
Sammarco, 44, runs a public/government affairs firm on Artesia Boulevard, working with clients on issues involving public safety, development and more.
He's making his first run for office but has been involved in various community groups, including PTA, Rotary, AYSO and Little League. Priorities include putting more police on the streets, conducting City Hall audits and enhancing city-school relationships.
He is opposed to the power plant ballot measure.
Supporting Measure A is Jan Jeffreys, 74, who was appointed to the library advisory panel in 2010.
She has a management, marketing and special events background, and has served as a homeowners association president and volunteer with the YMCA, Torrance Memorial Medical Center holiday festival and more.
She's pledged to revitalize Artesia Boulevard and fight to keep the L.A. Air Force Base open, among other goals.
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Upcoming: Articles on the Redondo Beach mayor's race and Measure A.