Steve Aspel
Steve Aspel

Redondo Beach voters have watched past mayoral candidates spar in the days leading up to Election Day.

When Mayor Mike Gin was battling former Councilman Gerard Bisignano in a 2005 runoff, Gin was targeted by his opponent for accepting out-of-town contributions and criticized in mailers funded by an Orange County political action committee.

"Weekend forecast for Redondo," Gin's supporters responded at one point, "more mudslinging."

But this year's four-way mayoral race has proven friendly in comparison. It features City Councilmen Steve Aspel, Pat Aust and Matt Kilroy - "I wouldn't say anything bad about either of them," Aspel said of his colleagues and competitors - along with political newcomer Eric Coleman.

Pat Aust
Pat Aust

Unless a candidate attracts more than 50 percent of the vote on March 5, the top two will move to a May 14 runoff.

There are similarities among the three councilmen, all of whom have long community service records, have won endorsements from the Chamber of Commerce, and have held appointed positions before winning their council posts. Aspel and Kilroy sat together on the city's Planning Commission, and Aust was a Beach Cities Health District director.

All have at least one four-year council term under their belts; Aspel is termed out in District 1, while Aust and Kilroy are making a run for mayor halfway through their second terms in Districts 3 and 5, respectively.


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And they're all opposed to Measure A, the ballot measure that seeks to phase out power-generating uses at the AES site on Harbor Drive - a proposal that Coleman, in contrast, supports.

Yet for all of their similarities, the sitting councilmen have different personalities, governing styles and campaign priorities - as does Coleman - that will weigh on voters' minds on Tuesday.

Aspel, 60, a retired district manager for Farmers Insurance, was the last councilman to declare his candidacy.

Matt Kilroy
Matt Kilroy
He named former Councilman Chris Cagle as his campaign manager.

Plain-spoken and sociable, the married father of four isn't shy about sharing his views on public policies or details of his private life. A colorectal cancer survivor, he announced his diagnosis during a heated 2010 meeting on harbor zoning issues.

Aspel said he's known as the "pothole and tree-trimming guy" because he has focused on neighborhood concerns in District 1. As mayor, he'd want to apply that philosophy to the other districts.

"I'd rather get things done than just talk about it," he said. "I'm used to customer service."

But he also has bigger goals, including resolving the acrimony that is bound to linger following the public vote on the power plant measure.

Eric Coleman
Eric Coleman

Aspel, who like the other candidates would ultimately like to see the power plant removed from the city's shoreline, said he doesn't support the measure in large part because of the rezoning component that would leave 30-40 percent of the site as commercial property and the rest as open space.

"I don't think 30 percent commercial is giving them (AES) enough reason to go away nicely and quietly," he said.

He also wants to see through long-awaited waterfront revitalization plans; the city has selected El Segundo-based CenterCal properties to develop them.

"We are going to get shovels in the dirt," he said. "We've asked the developer to have more community meetings. We've asked the people to say what they do want rather than what they don't want."

If there's one candidate who seemed predestined to run for mayor, it is probably Aust, the city's former fire chief who started his career in Redondo Beach in 1969.

The 64-year-old Aust, who is married with two children and four grown grandchildren, serves as the council's unofficial historian. He is a Historical Society board member and collects antique fire memorabilia as a hobby.

"I'm running for mayor because this is my life," Aust said, pointing out that he was the city's youngest chief officer - battalion chief - at age 32. "I set goals and I achieve them."

He believes his historical knowledge of the city and past experience as a department head would serve him well. As an example, he cited his knowledge of how and why pension and health benefits were structured the way they were years ago for city employees.

He also said he's looking forward to seeing through long-awaited revitalization plans for the city pier and King Harbor.

Aust said he fears that if Measure A passes "we'll be in court for a long, long time," which is part of why he's opposed to the ballot measure. "I'm afraid of wasting money," he said.

He's also concerned that the amount of land zoned for commercial uses on the power plant site could not sustain the designated park land. Aust supports residents having a right to say whether they want a power plant on their coast and pushed for it last spring in council chambers - "I'm for what the majority wants," he said - but is opposed to an initiative "that ties our hands and locks in the zoning."

Kilroy, an Adams Middle School science teacher who spent 20 years working in the aerospace industry, said he likes to take his time doing research. As proof, he cited his discovery of a discrepancy in a past trash hauler's proposed annual rate increase that ultimately resulted in cost savings for ratepayers.

Kilroy, 55, said he's not afraid to take a stand, which is why he, with other civic and school leaders, signed the argument against Measure A on the March 5 ballot. He is the only mayoral candidate who has done so.

"It's clearly a public taking," Kilroy said of the rezoning proposal. "To sit here and place the city of Redondo Beach in that kind of financial risk to me is just irresponsible."

Yet he said he can be opposed to the measure and the plant at the same time. He wants the California Energy Commission to have to demonstrate why a new power plant is needed at the Harbor Drive site, and believes the city can work toward that goal by serving as an "intervenor" in the application review process.

If elected, Kilroy said he'd also focus on ensuring the city has a vibrant business sector and securing the future of the Los Angeles Air Force Base. In addition, he'd continue to invest in infrastructure and reach agreements on benefits with labor groups.

A longtime community volunteer, Kilroy has served on the city's Public Safety, Public Works and Planning commissions, and as an AYSO board member, Boy Scout troop leader and more. He is married with three children.

"My biggest point is, I've been serving the community," he said. "When I get into something, I don't just dabble in it."

Eric Coleman, 31, said he's running for mayor with "fresh ideas" that haven't been mentioned by the other candidates.

That includes a plan to bring back the historic Red Car trolley system with a fleet of wheeled trolley cars running frequently among points such as the South Bay Galleria, Artesia Boulevard business district and the city pier. He also wants to look into restoring the defunct South Bay Hospital, now home to offices and health and wellness programs of the Beach Cities Health District.

The agency was formed in 1955 as the South Bay Hospital District by the will of voters in the three beach cities, who granted it the power and money to open a hospital. The facility closed in 1998.

"I think Redondo deserves a hospital," Coleman said. "Money was allocated, and where did the money go?"

On the Measure A issue, Coleman said he's heard detractors' fears that a vote in favor of rezoning the power plant land will lead to litigation. "I say, `call their bluff,"' he said of AES. "They will leave."

Coleman's political resume is thin - he has never held office before - but he doesn't believe that should get in the way of running.

He said he has taught school in the city and in India, done farm work in Canada, managed a shop in Chicago and works as a political cartoonist.

"What experience do you need, other than life experience, to be mayor?" Coleman asked.

kristin.agostoni@dailybreeze.com

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