Benicia Herald interview with Alan Schwartzman: will not seek re-election

Repost from the Benicia Herald

Schwartzman will not seek re-election; no incumbents in City Council race

Councilmember Alan Schwartzman will not be running for re-election, leaving no incumbents running in 2018. (Photo courtesy of City of Benicia)

Councilmember Alan Schwartzman will not be running for re-election, leaving no incumbents running in 2018. (Photo courtesy of City of Benicia)

For the first time since 2007, no incumbents will be running in the Benicia City Council election. Councilmember Mark Hughes announced on Friday that he would not seek re-election, and Alan Schwartzman told the Herald today that he would not be running either.

After 13 years on the council preceded by six years on the Planning Commission and a year and a half on the Economic Development Board a few years earlier, Schwartzman felt it was time to retire to spend more time with family.

“As of Saturday, I’m going to have seven grandchildren,” he said. “I want to spend some more time traveling and seeing the grandkids. It’s time to give back to family.”

A resident since 1987 and current manager of American Pacific Mortgage’s Benicia branch, Schwartzman first considered running for the council in 2003 while serving on the Planning Commission.

“I spent at least two of those six years as the chair,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience. It just confirmed for me that I enjoyed being involved in city government and having a role in decision-making and moving the city forward.”

“I wanted to go beyond Planning Commission and have a greater role in the policies of the city and being able to move the city forward,” he added.

Additionally, Schwartzman’s children were adults and had moved out of Benicia, so he felt he now had the time and commitment to serve on the City Council. He ran in 2005, and ended up being the top vote-getter, which earned him a position as vice mayor. He earned the title again when he was re-elected in 2009 and secured another term in 2014 when he and Hughes ran unopposed. In between, Schwartzman mounted a run for mayor in 2011 but lost to incumbent Elizabeth Patterson.

Schwartzman said he had a lot of proud moments of his time on the council, including being able to get the city through a “contentious” bargaining issue with the firefighters in 2006, maintaining a balanced budget, “hiring a new city manager who filled the department heads slots with high-caliber individuals and the stabilizing of attrition” and weathering the effects of the Great Recession.

“We were a little late to the party getting into it and a little late coming out of it,” he said. “I think that we navigated it as well as we could do.”

Moreover, Schwartzman is proud of the construction of the Rose Drive overpass in 2010 and doing a PERS refunding bond, which both happened during his tenure.

“I’m very happy that we’re able to start to give back to the employees because we certainly had to, during the Great Recession when were going through budget restraints like most every other jurisdiction, do cutbacks,” he said. “I’m happy that we were able to get employees back to where they were and hopefully ahead of where they were.”

Schwartzman feels positive about the current council and hopes the members will continue to keep up the work while taking economic development into consideration, particularly in the Industrial Park.

“I think it’s gonna be extremely important that they focus on the Industrial Park and how to enhance it and have it continue to be a major force economically in the city,” he said.

Additionally, Schwartzman hopes the council will stay on top of the water issue and ensure the city has good water for generations, main the 20 percent reserve and work toward appropriate development of the Seeno property.

“It would be great to start to develop that appropriately because I think that it will go a long way for sustainability of the city,” he said.

Finally, Schwartzman hopes the council will keep in mind the importance of city employees.

“Without a good staff of employees, the city will not run properly,” he said.

Schwartzman said he has a house in Oregon and hopes to spend more time up there after he finishes up his term.

Overall, Schwartzman has enjoyed his time on the council and various government agencies as well as the people he has met along the way.

“Some people call it a thankless job,” he said. “I’ve never thought of it that way. I always thought what the council does is positive for the community, and just knowing that was rewarding to me.”

The candidates running for the council this year are Planning Commission Chair Kari Birdseye, Economic Development Board Chair Lionel Largaespada and former Councilmember Christina Strawbridge. Keep reading the Herald for interviews with all these candidates.