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Former Atwater council members seeking seats again

ATWATER -- Two former council members may try to reclaim their seats on the dais, challenging the incumbents in the November race.

Both Joe Rivero, 48, and Eileen Duddy, 75, have pulled paperwork to have their names on the ballot. The filing deadline for the Nov. 4 election is Friday.

If elected, Rivero would serve alongside his father, Joe Rivero, elected to the council in 1998, defeating two incumbents.Duddy is debating whether to run for the council or for treasurer.

Lesa Rasmussen and Gary Frago are both running to keep their council seats.

Duddy and Rivero are planning to campaign under the banner of fiscal responsibility, asserting that the current council hasn’t been adequately representing its residents.

Rivero, a Shaffer Elementary School teacher, cited the council's hike of the sewer rates as one problem. Typical bills rose from $22 to $33 on Jan. 1 to $49 on July 1.

An alternative option would have been more but smaller rate increases, which would cost the city more interest in paying down a loan. "People are having a hard time making it," Rivero said. “Are you representing people or are you representing managers?”

Good fiscal management is the key, he said, because it allows other projects, such as street repairs and public safety improvements, to move forward.

Duddy, a certified public accountant who sat on the council dais from 1996 to 2000, believes the present council hasn’t exercised enough fiscal responsibility.

Fire inspections, which used to be free, are a prime example, she said. It cost $75 to have a fireman come to her office and look at the fire extinguisher's tag. The firefighters are paid whether they’re inspecting businesses or not, so it makes no sense to charge an additional fee, she argued.

The service used to be free, until the council approved charging for it in February 2007. The city shouldn't be adding fees in a such a fragile economy, she said. Duddy also feels the city spends too much money on consultants. "We need people on the council who have a strong financial sense," she noted.

Both Duddy and Rivero previously served on the council when it was fractured and known for contentious debates and petty politics. Rivero said he felt he was a calming force while in office, and Duddy said the people who she butted heads with have since left.

While the current council's debates have been heated at times, the atmosphere -- at least publicly -- is much more cordial than in the past.