By Steven Piper
The seats of Long Beach City Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Patrick O’Donnell– Districts 8 and 4, respectively– will be up for grabs during the upcoming 2012 elections.
Both representatives have reached their term limits, and they are not eligible to be reelected, unless they choose to run as write-in candidates– a route that both officials have indicated they are not interested in taking. Eager to fill the voids left by Gabelich and O’Donnell, two contestants have recently announced their candidacies.
Mike Kowal, realtor and cofounder of the grassroots organization LBHUSH2– which, according to its website, worked to ensure that the Long Beach Airport does not degrade the quality of life in Long Beach– and head of Neighborhood First, has filed to run for District 8, which encompasses Bixby Knolls and parts of North Long Beach. The community organizer announced his candidacy in an email announcement sent on April 29.
“Just a note to let you know that I will have filed the required documents to the State and City and am now officially running for the Eighth District City Council,” said Kowal in the email. “I next have to find and hire a campaign manager, a financial secretary, form a campaign committee, create a web page and locate a bunch of volunteers willing to spend some time and money to assist the campaign.”
As the leader of the grassroots organization Neighborhood First, Kowal has previously sought to “protect the quality of life in Long Beach by increasing public awareness of the pro-neighborhood performance of all elected officials, working to elect responsible candidates, and holding them accountable to the pro-neighborhood agenda once elected,” according to the group’s mission statement on their website.
Additionally, John Watkins, previously a Long Beach Police Department officer, has filed to run for the seat in District 4, which is bordered by Gardenia Avenue on the west, the San Diego Freeway on the north, El Dorado Park on the east and Atherton and 10th streets to the south.
“My life and career in Long Beach has revolved around public service, first with the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and now with Special Olympics. I look to continue that service as a member of the City Council representing the neighborhoods I have worked with and resided in for decades,” said Watkins in a memo released May 10. “I have had the opportunity to work with the residents and business owners in this area for many, many years. I have heard their concerns, worked with them to promote a safe environment and a higher standard of living. I now look forward to representing these folks on the City Council, promoting job growth and retention, safe neighborhoods and assuring fiscal prudence on budgetary matters.”
During his career with the LBPD, Watkins spent 20 years working with the community– he and his partner were the first patrol officers to initiate a bike patrol on the Anaheim corridor. In 2000, he was promoted to sergeant. Additionally, Watkins dealt with security-related issues at Long Beach Airport.
Watkins attended Long Beach City College and California State University, Long Beach. He is married and has six children ranging in age from nine to 28 years old. According to the memo, Watkins has also been a small-business owner for numerous years.
The Council seats for the second and sixth districts will also be available in the next election.