Marina councilmen Gary Wilmot and Dave McCall both wanted to run for mayor. With Mayor Ila Mettee-McCutchon in the race for county supervisor, the two colleagues flirted with the idea of sliding over to the retired colonel’s mayoral seat. Instead of arm wrestling for the post, the councilmen talked out their political intentions over Starbuck’s coffee. Wilmot ultimately received McCall’s blessing to run for mayor in November. But their stories differ as to why.
Wilmot, 54, says he’s better positioned for the job. Wilmot’s term expires this year and McCall still has two years remaining. Plus, Wilmot says McCall would have a hard time making regional government meetings since he mainly works in the Bay Area as a construction project manager. “He would be very much an absentee mayor,” Wilmot says. Wilmot, on the other hand, works from home as a software engineer at IBM and says he could attend more city functions.
McCall, 51, describes yielding to his three-year elder in more cordial terms. McCall says Wilmot told him about his plans to retire from IBM and also hang up his city-servant hat after one two-year term as mayor. “It would be nice for him to finish out his long stint in public service as mayor of Marina,” McCall says.
Regardless of reasoning, the two colleagues compromised: Wilmot will run for mayor this year and McCall will shoot for 2010. Although this wasn’t his first choice, McCall doesn’t think running against his ally would be best for Marina. Both Republicans have similar supporters in the city. “It would kind of like split the camps,” McCall says.
Wilmot closes his laptop and takes a sip from his latte at Marina’s Starbucks. He wears a black Marina Rotary jacket. The councilman recalls changing Marina’s zoning code as a planning commissioner to allow this type of mixed-use development: a cafe with an apartment on top.
Economic development has been the centerpiece of the straightforward and opinionated councilman’s tenure. He supported Wal-Mart coming to Marina and has been a strong advocate of The Dunes shopping center on Highway 1. “It used to be if you wanted anything you’d have to get in your car and drive south,” Wilmot says. Now with the big-box retailers in Marina, Wilmot says driving to Sand City isn’t necessary.
Politically, Wilmot is very much in step with Mettee-McCutchon. In fact, the mayor’s husband John McCutchon tapped Wilmot to run for council. But like Mettee-McCutchon, some have accused Wilmot of being too friendly with the city’s developers. Wilmot fervently supports the council’s controversial decision to pump $70 million of redevelopment funds into The Dunes to keep the development on schedule. Before Wilmot was elected, he and the McCutchons took an Alaskan cruise with Marina Heights developer Michael Shaw. Now Wilmot may cruise into the mayor’s post.
So far no other mayoral candidates have stepped forward. With Wilmot running for mayor, his council seat will be up for grabs. Councilman Jim Ford, who the council appointed after Michael Morrison resigned, will try to retain his post. David Hernandez, who was defeated in 2006 by Ken Gray and McCall, says he will run again.
Depending on the results of the June primary election, the Marina City Council could have to appoint a mayor. If Mettee-McCutchon defeats Jane Parker, who has also announced her candidacy for the District 4 supervisorial seat, Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneger may appoint Mettee-McCutchon to finish the late Supervisor Jerry Smith’s term. (Otherwise, the District 4 winner will take office in early January 2009.) With McCall’s backing, this would mean Wilmot could get the mayoral nod early.