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November Ballot Takes Shape for Council Races

by Maggie Avants, Senior Staff Writer

An important day is coming up for local candidates. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, they will learn whether the voters of southwest Riverside County had enough trust in their abilities to elect them to public office.

In the race for Murrieta City Council there are nine candidates for three seats which hold four-year terms. Incumbents Rick Gibbs and Alan Long are vying for re-election, while others seeking the office are: Diana Serafin, community activist and retired computer technician; C. Kent Leeper, substitute teacher; James Richardson, businessman; Matthew Alvernaz, police officer; Brian Barton, retired Marine officer; Jonathan Ingram, small business owner; and Ruthanne Taylor-Berger, transportation finance director and Murrieta planning commissioner.

Five are vying for three seats on Temecula City Council, including: incumbents Jeff Comerchero and Maryann Edwards; Angel Garcia, small businessman; Cecilie Nelson, realtor; and Matt Rahn, educator, researcher and consultant.

In Lake Elsinore, incumbents Daryl Hickman and Brian Tisdale are seeking re-election. A third candidate, Richard Morsch, will try to unseat one of them.

In Wildomar, there are five candidates for three seats. Incumbents Marsha Swanson, Ben Benoit and Tim Walker are all seeking re-election, while challengers Israel Leija and Gary Andre have entered the race.

And in Menifee, Mayor Scott Mann is running to retain his seat. His competitor for the office is Paul Wiggins. Incumbent Tom Furham has three contenders in his bid for re-election as Councilmember, District 2. Those challengers are: Matt Liesemeyer, John Baker and Sue Kristjannson. In the race for Councilmember District 4, incumbent John Denver has one competitor, Gloria Jean Sanchez.

The Valley Business Journal sought to get to know the candidates by sending questionnaires to those running for Temecula and Murrieta city councils. Below, we have shared synopses of some of their responses to the questions posed.

Current Murrieta Mayor Alan Long, who is seeking his second term, said he has kept his promises and will continue to. “During my 2010 campaign, I made my platform clear,” said Long, 42, who has lived in Murrieta for 40 years and works as a battalion chief for the Anaheim Fire Department. “Today, hospitals that were on the brink of being shut down have improved and now expanded. Loma Linda hospital was built in record time and Kaiser has announced they chose Murrieta for their 84-acre campus; ambulance standard response times have been reduced by two minutes; a city policy was created protecting private property rights; and our trails system has nearly doubled in size. “Additionally, I created a business advisory committee so businesses can have a direct line of communication with staff and council so we can collaboratively create policies that help businesses grow. A promise made, a promise kept.”

Matthew Alvernaz, a 30-year-old police officer who commutes and has resided in Murrieta for five years, said he knows what it takes to keep a community safe. He said he would push for smart growth in Murrieta. “Murrieta is growing at an accelerated rate with the population greatly outnumbering the amount of jobs,” Alvernaz said. “With Murrieta as desirable and affordable as it is, high density housing threatens to overwhelm our city. With the development of such housing, overall property values decrease while schools become overcrowded and crime rates increase. “I want to protect the value of our homes and ensure our children have enough school resources and access to teachers. Traffic is also an issue of great concern and will only continue to get worse as the population grows and household commute for work. As a police officer I have an intimate knowledge of how healthy communities operate and what causes them damage. Growth is fantastic but it must be controlled.”

Another candidate for Murrieta City Council, Diana Serafin, 63, said: “My accomplishments prove I am working for the people; ended the Red Light Traffic Camera program, exposed the Drone program in Murrieta and helped stop the new Code Enforcement Program.” Serafin said her job experience, including managing a family business for 15 years, also qualifies her to serve as a council member.

Education is also important to Temecula City Council Candidate Angel Garcia, 22, who earned a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Riverside. If elected, he said he would bring “fresh perspective with common sense leadership.” “This is a crucial time for our city’s future; city service and city council must be held accountable and transparent by facilitating easy access to the residents and businesses of Temecula,” Garcia said. “Establish City Hall as the one stop hub for businesses and residents, where they can access city and county services under one roof.”

Candidate Cecilie Nelson, a realtor who has resided in Temecula for six years, said she too would bring a new perspective to Temecula City Council. Her professional experience, she said, has prepared her for the office. “Given my experience both as board secretary for the Wolf Creek Maintenance Corp. HOA (one of the largest in Temecula with 1,800 homes) and as a real estate agent, I believe I embody the proper and required disposition necessary to balance people’s ideas and concerns with the necessary growth and preservation of assets that are the foundation of the Temecula Valley experience and economic viability enjoyed today,” Nelson said.

Nelson, 43, has an MBA and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Loyola University Chicago’s Quinn Graduate School of Business, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota.

“Motivated by the family, friends and people with whom I live, work and socialize everyday, I want to become an integral part of the future discussions and planning of our city, and partner with current council members in service to Temecula citizens and the region,” Nelson said.


Editor’s Note: Some candidates chose not to respond to our questionnaires or requests for their photos.