BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
First elected in 1997, Ed Wilson is seeking his fourth term on the Signal Hill City Council. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from USC and certificate from SAP, a leading Enterprise Resource and Planning program. He became a CPA while working for KPMG, one of the largest accounting firms in the world. Then he spent several years in management positions for national and international financial institutions. He now works as a financial consultant, interim Comptroller or CFO for various corporations on a contract basis.
Wilson currently serves on the city’s Sustainability Committee and is a board member of the Long Beach City College Foundation. He has also served on several other regional governmental organizations.
“This city council has done many good things in the past 12 years,” he said. “Putting in million-dollar homes on the top of the hill is a huge accomplishment.” He emphasized that the city was able to collect about $1.6 million more in revenue for the hilltop development than would have been collected without an agreement that he pushed.
Wilson explained that the banks were only willing to lend the developer an amount that was one million dollars less than the company needed to construct the homes. For that reason, the developer asked the city to waive a million dollars in development fees. “At the time, we didn’t have money to build low- and moderate-income housing,” Wilson said. “It didn’t seem right to subsidize million-dollar homes and not build the others.”
Wilson said he knew that after several of the hilltop homes sold, prices for the remainder would begin to steadily increase. “I suggested that we waive the million dollars in the beginning, but as the prices increased they would have to repay that amount,” he said. They eventually agreed, but we didn’t cap it at a million. We ultimately agreed that for every three-dollar increase in the sale price, the developer got two and the city got one.”
According to Wilson, because of that agreement, Signal Hill got $2.6 million in fees from that development, instead of the one million that it would have received at the beginning.
He noted that the development of the Las Brisas I and II low-income housing development were also huge accomplishments that took place during his tenure on the council. “That development included quality housing to low-income families, a childcare center, a park and a police substation,” he said.
Wilson emphasized that since 1997, the council has added several parks and pedestrian trails and made the city inviting to people of all races.
He added that the city’s well maintained streets and sidewalks and its well funded police department are the envy of neighboring cities. “We are able to do that because we have always carefully planned for the future,” he explained, adding that the city now has $40 million in reserves, including about $9 million for any contingency.
He noted that his 17-year-old daughter Ashley is one of his inspirations for being on the council. “We have to ensure that the city is where it needs to be when our young people are ready to take over,” he said. “Given my background as a CPA, budget control manager, and CFO, I understand what we need to do as we steer the ship through these difficult economic times.”
Wilson stressed that the completion of the new police department will be one of his main priorities if he is reelected. “I will also work hard to make sure that Signal Hill is doing its part to address global environmental concerns,” he said.
Like other council members, Wilson said he was a strong supporter of developing a nature park on the north slope of the hill.
Turning to the national economic recession, Wilson said the stimulus bill recently signed by the president would prove to be a boon to the economy. “It’s not going to change things overnight, but I do think it will help,” he said.
He blamed California’s budget crisis on the state legislature’s failure to balance its budget. “That’s why we set up our reserve funds,” he said. “We planned for state funding reductions.”
Wilson added he and other council members have spent years building relationships with county, state and federal government officials. “We can get on the phone and ask them to address issues important to Signal Hill,” he said.
He stressed that experience was extremely important during difficult times. “You need to have people on the council who can identify the issues, have the connections and know how to get things done as quickly as possible,” he said. “I am extremely proud to have represented the City of Signal Hill for the past 12 years. I believe I have made a positive contribution to the city and hope to continue to do that.”