A longtime Riverside city councilman and a school board member appeared Wednesday to be bound for a November runoff election to fill the mayor’s seat, left open by the retirement of the incumbent.
City Councilman Andy Melendrez, who was first elected to the council in 2006, and Riverside Unified School District board member Patricia Lock Dawson topped the six-candidate field to advance in the race.
Mayor Rusty Bailey will end his second term at the end of the year, leaving the field open to six contenders.
Melendrez, who represents the city’s east side, along with the Canyon Crest area, is touting his backing of a slew of park and community center upgrades, as well as support for beautification efforts and artistic programs in his platform.
The councilman, who also operates a small business, states in campaign literature that he’s most concerned with protecting “Riverside’s unique quality of life.”
Dawson emphasizes fiscal responsibility, safe neighborhoods and the maintenance of “parks and open spaces” in her campaign. She points to her work on behalf of the Santa Ana River Conservancy and support of programs to expand science, technology, engineering and math in grade schools as hallmarks of her career.
The other candidates were taxi service operator Guy Harrell, self- described “full-time dad” Phi Long “John” Denilofs, caregiver Rich Gardner and community activist Acea Stapler.
Harrell advocated municipal support for programs that facilitate commerce, and he expressed the need for environmental protections amid urban sprawl.
Denilofs, a Vietnam-born U.S. Army veteran, stated his desire for increased access to health services for the mentally ill, increasing the supply of affordable housing for the disabled and more vocational training opportunities for people in the trades.
Gardner, who spent years as a full-time caregiver for his wife and adult daughter’s husband, said Riverside should better promote citywide attractions to boost tourism, and he called for reforming the municipal pension system to strengthen the city’s financial position.
Stapler said in campaign literature that there’s a growing chasm between local government and its citizenry, and she wanted to mend the “broken equity of relationships.” Her platform focused on reducing the homeless population, combating crime and increasing affordable housing opportunities for families.