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April 2012 election already drawing plenty of candidates

By MARY SCHLEY

Published: November 4, 2011

THE RACE for mayor and two members of the city council is shaping up to be an interesting one, with a pair of incumbents stepping aside and a couple of new prospective candidates declaring their intentions to vie for voters’ approval in the April 10, 2012, election.

At its Nov. 1 meeting, the city council adopted a resolution officially calling for the election and requesting the county to release voter records. Potential candidates also began filing the required paperwork to begin fundraising.

Sue McCloud, the city’s longest-serving mayor with a dozen years on the job, announced last week she would not seek a seventh two-year term. So far, two men have indicated their plans to replace her.

Restaurateur Rich Pèpe, who owns Little Napoli, Vesuvio, a wine shop and a pair of bakeries in town but until this week was living in Pebble Beach, said Tuesday he had found a small upstairs apartment just a few steps from city hall and is in the process of filling out the required forms to begin raising funds for his mayoral campaign. Last summer, he had stated his plans to run, but he could not be a legitimate candidate until he became a city resident. He is also registering to vote in town.

“It’s going to be an interesting race,” he commented.

Last week, councilman Jason Burnett took the initial steps to prepare for his own efforts to become mayor. Since he is not up for reelection to the council, Burnett is running from a safe seat.

“My commitment was to serve four years, and I think the question I am posing to voters is whether they want me to serve the second part of it as mayor or continue to serve on the council,” Burnett said this week.

While city council incumbent Ken Talmage, who was appointed in December 2006 and elected to a full four-year term in 2008, said he plans to seek another term, Karen Sharp said she will not. Sharp was appointed to the council in August 2007 and also elected to a full term in April 2008.

“I just think it’s time,” she said, having served on the now disbanded design review board, the planning commission and the city council. While she’s ending her political involvement when her term ends next April, she’ll remain entrenched in the city she loves, particularly with efforts to draw visitors and serve them while they’re here.

“So many exciting things happen here, and I love that about Carmel: it’s interesting and exciting and fun,” she said. “It’s one of those cities that has so much charm and tradition, it changes while remaining the same, which is hard to do.”

Sharp was a key proponent of the free MST trolley that runs through town during the tourist season and of keeping the lights on in the median from November through the spring. (They’ll start twinkling Friday night, she said.)

“I did the quiet things,” she said, as opposed to those that involved a lot of talking during meetings. Instead, she has been more of a listener — even to the constant critics who speak every month.

“That’s one of the things I feel really strongly about: No matter who they are and what they say and how many times they’ve spoken in the past, I try to listen, because frequently they’ll come up with something that’s a pearl,” she said.

With her announcement, Tom Leverone, chairman of the forest and beach commission, announced his intention to run in her place.

“I knew for some time that Karen was rather undecided whether she wanted to run again, and that when she decided she would not, that would open up a vacancy,” he said. “I never wanted to oppose anyone on the city council.”

Leverone, who was born and raised in Minnesota, studied medicine at UCLA and had a practice in Southern California before retiring, bought his house in Carmel in 2005 and moved here full-time a couple of years ago. His wife, Elece Leverone, is vice chair of the Sunset Cultural Center board of directors.

He said many residents encouraged him to run because they thought he “would do a great job on the city council,” and he agrees.

Leverone said he supports the preservation of the city’s character, but that doesn’t mean not making changes.

“We have a tough time coming up. We’re not going to make everyone happy — people have to understand that,” he said, adding that his objective would be to support “the best thing that causes the least harm to the least amount of people.”

Also, Adam Moniz, who came within 111 votes of defeating mayor Sue McCloud in 2010, said he would run either for mayor or city council in April.

“In response to all of the community support and encouragement I have received over the past two years, I look forward to announcing a run for mayor or for city council in late December or early January,” Moniz said. “I offer voters results and value. We need government to work efficiently, and we need to put city dollars to good use and provide a valuable return to our residents.”