Bergman, Rivero likely for Atwater council

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comNovember 7, 2012 

— Tuesday's election brought some of the new and some of the old to the City Council.

Many voters marked their ballots for candidate Larry Bergman, a CalFire captain who was favored to win a spot on the dais with many residents upset with incumbents over Atwater's financial crisis.

Results that came in by the Sun-Star's deadline showed him taking 37.8 percent of the vote in the four-man race. His votes totaled 2,922.

Following Bergman was incumbent Joe Rivero, mayor pro tem on the Atwater City Council. With 2,020 votes, he took 26.1 percent and was ahead of incumbent Councilman Gary Frago and candidate Daniel Hernandez, who took 778 votes (10 percent) and 1,674 votes (21.7 percent), respectively.

Early in the night, Bergman said he was "cautiously optimistic" as he waited with friends and family at the Atwater Chamber of Commerce for early results to come in.

Once the county posted early results showing he had nearly twice as many votes as the next-highest vote-getter, he said it shows that the citizens are ready for a change.

"I'm breathing again," Bergman said. "I'm very humbled by that."

Rivero said he was excited about the numbers as they came in late Tuesday night. He thanked his supporters for the opportunity to serve a third term on the council and said he wants to focus on the "continued prosperity and growth of the city."

"We've already moved in the right direction with finances and we continue to improve on them," he said.

This has been a tumultuous year for Atwater as it dealt with a crippling general fund deficit of more than $3 million coupled with deficits in the water and sanitation funds. Those shortfalls were at the core of the crisis that led the city to declare a common-law fiscal emergency.

Bankruptcy couldn't be ruled out, either, as leaders scrambled to make cuts, which included a 22 percent pay reduction for members of the Atwater Police Officers' Association and concessions from other employee groups.

Eight employees were laid off.

The situation became a political football for the candidates as they presented their platforms to voters at various forums leading up to the election.

Bergman accused the council of failing to act, while write-in candidate Bob Miller thought the crisis was the result of nobody "looking at the books."

With change coming to the council, Bergman thinks that inaction will be a problem of the past.

Miller, a former Atwater planning commissioner, came up short in his bid for the council. After seeing where Atwater's finances were headed, he made a late decision to run as a write-in to give voters more choice, but despite his efforts, many didn't realize he was running.

He said he'll consider running again in two years.

Neither Frago nor Hernandez could be reached for comment after Tuesday night's numbers came out.

Reporter Mike North

can be reached at

(209) 385-2453 or

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