The City of Redlands will elect three council members on November 4th. Seven candidates have successfully filed for the race including two incumbents, a former county supervisor, a former public information officer, an insurance agent, a tattoo parlor owner, and a “domestic engineer.” Council member Bob Gardner decided not to seek reelection leaving an open seat.
This should be a very interesting race. Incumbents Paul Foster and Jon Harrison should have a significant advantage due to name identification and incumbency. Paul Barich, who owns an insurance agency and has served on Boards of non-profits and the Chamber of Commerce has never run for public office, but has some advantages as a Redlands insider. Jane Dreher, who once served on city staff and recently retired as a public information officer for the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) also has some insider advantages.
Tabetha Wittenmyer was formerly the city’s director of the Quality of Life Department (whatever that means) and is the youngest of the field who’s ballot statement now reads “domestic engineer.” John Montgomery owns two Tattoo Parlors in Redlands and is a virtual unknown in political circles. Rounding out the field is the surprise candidate of the election, former County Supervisor Neil Derry.
Redlands as a town has had a history of favoring long-time residents from a cliquish old guard that bounced between no-growth and pro-growth extremes. But Redlands has changed dramatically over the last decades with thousands of newer residents purchasing homes in the city attracted by employment giant ESRI and middle class parents looking for safer neighborhoods and quality education opportunities for their children. Additionally, Redlands has been a favorite community for military retirees from the former active Air Force bases of Norton and March.
With these factors and the likely low turnout for an off year November election with no top of the ticket draw, this election will turn on name identification and the effectiveness of individual campaigns. Name identification would usually give incumbents a major advantage. In this race that is true as well, all though that point might be missed. In this case, the clear advantages go to incumbents Paul Foster and Jon Harrison, and former Supervisor Neil Derry. The other candidates in the race have never run for elected office.
Candidate’s individual community involvement will also factor into the election. Many of the candidates are members of Rotary, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, and the Chamber of Commerce. Expect prior military service to also be highlighted as none of the current city council served in the military, even though Redlands residents have a vibrant military history.
But, the campaigns of each individual candidate will have the greatest impact on the election. More than the election forums, debates and interviews, the door-to-door campaigns of the candidates can turn an unknown candidate into a contender in a matter of weeks. And in a “quiet” town like Redlands, a currently unbeknownst election issue can turn an election on a dime.
Be prepared to hear election issues such as “debt,” “fees,” and “city management” brought into the mix before this election cycle is over. Regardless of the apparent quiet and calm at City Hall, “there is trouble in River City.”