This is part of our voter guide coverage for the fall 2020 election.
VOTE FOR UP TO TWO
The battle for two seats on the Capitola City Council has three newcomers and an incumbent, who was elected in 2016.
Mayor Kristen Petersen, 33, who is finishing her year-long term as the city’s top elected official, says she hopes to see the Capitola Library construction through to its end. She says she campaigned for Measure S in 2016, the sales tax measure that funded construction and improvements at libraries throughout Santa Cruz County.
The project, which has transformed the city’s upper east end, is in its final stages. The city will also soon develop Rispin Park just across the street, she says.
“We’re going to have this really amazing space where you can get a library book from our new state-of-the-art library, and go right across the street to this historic park area,” says Petersen, a senior government relations associate for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Capitola is preparing to redevelop the Capitola Mall, a project that could transform the city with a mix of new residential and retail. Petersen calls the project a “huge sea change” for the city that will bring jobs and housing.
“These next four years is when we’re really going to nail down the details, get the groundbreaking hopefully and really ramp up activity in that regard,” she says.
The timing’s significant, Petersen says, as the city faces revenue losses due to Covid-19 closures affecting small businesses, and she says the recovery could last a decade. She says she successfully advocated for getting young people involved in local politics, with students seated on all of the city’s advisory bodies.
Anthony Rovai, 55, is a financial advisor and lender, wealth manager, realtor and mortgage broker. He says his strong financial background gives him a unique perspective for elected office.
Many municipalities across the U.S., he notes, face pandemic-related financial troubles, and he wants to help the town bounce back.
“Our city is going to be in some very desperate need of some budgeting guidance and really thoughtful ways to grow our tax bases moving forward,” he says.
With his 26 years of financial experience in mind, he says he hopes to be part of the Capitola Mall project. “If it’s done right it can be an absolutely beautiful thing, and a great asset to the city of Capitola,” he says. “If it’s done wrong it can be an absolute disaster. So I am just looking for a smart mix between commercial and residential.”
Excited to be making his first foray into local politics, Rovai says he has been a part of the Capitola community since 1975. “I love this place,” he says.
Rovai is excited about plans for a hotel in Capitola Village, which he says could be a financial boon for the city. “We have to look at smart ways to enhance the tax revenues within the city so we can provide those services and support and keep the streets up and all those things we enjoy.”
Margaux Keiser, 33, a 12-year resident of Capitola, runs a personal training business. She says she was inspired to run when looking at the damage the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to cause.
As she earned her master’s degree in political science from San Jose State University, along with certifications in personal training, she says she worked at several restaurants and bars in Capitola Village.
That experience, along with her small business, has allowed her to get to build myriad personal relationships with people throughout the city.
Many people, she says, have little knowledge about their city council and therefore may be intimidated when it comes to participating in their local government.
“If there is a familiar face or a familiar name up there, I think it makes people more comfortable maybe to come forward or make contact or bring up issues that are happening for them,” she says.
Keiser says the Capitola Mall rebuild could be a good opportunity for the city to grow and bring new housing and jobs. But any project the city undertakes should be done expeditiously so Capitola can retain its small-town vibe, while positioning itself for future growth, she says.
“The main part is that everyone wants to keep it the quaint little town that it is,” she says, “but I think as we all see on the horizon there are going to be these opportunities for some type of growth.”
Will Little Bear Reising, 45, thinks of himself first and foremost as a father—then as a small business owner and a homeowner. All of those, coupled with a love of the community in which he has lived his entire life, inspired him to run for office.
Reising makes Willy Willy Hot Sauce, and he’s worked for tech companies like IBM, Oracle and Google as a “technologist” and account executive. Reising says he’s skilled at leading groups, helping to “foster new thinking” and to facilitate change.
Those skills are essential in a time when Covid-19 has upended nearly every aspect of life, he says. “Most of us have been challenged to think about how our daily lives are going to be conducted given all the challenges,” he says. “We’re also thinking about what our city and local governments can do to change things.”
Reising also says he’s concerned about the small businesses that are at risk of closing. “That is going to be a huge change in Capitola that will have an impact in the future for the city’s ability to generate revenue and the character of the town,” he says.
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