With Councilman Brandt Grotte’s decision not to seek a third term on the San Mateo City Council, the field is up to five for those seeking three open seats, two belonging to incumbents David Lim and Robert Ross, who are both seeking their second four-year terms on the council.
Mayor Lim and Deputy Mayor Ross are joined in the race by Planning Commissioner Josh Hugg, Public Works Commissioner Joe Goethals and marketing professional Karen Schmidt.
Depending on the outcome of the November election, the council could have up to three new faces on it and at least one.
The thick field of candidates in this race is a stark contrast to the last council election when Jack Matthews and first-time candidate Maureen Freschet walked onto the council without any competition.
Ross served the city as a police officer for more than 28 years and is a real estate broker who raised two children in San Mateo. Moving forward, he would like to help link the city’s schools with some of its established businesses in an innovative approach to sustaining the community’s physical and mental health.
Lim is running again because there is some “unfinished business” he would like to see the city complete such as reviewing the Community Development Department and hiring a new city manager.
Since Lim joined the council four years ago, the city has been, he said, “in defense the whole time” regarding its budget and the many staff cuts.
“We have an opportunity to be more proactive,” said Lim, who has three young children and is a prosecutor in Alameda County.
First-time candidate Joe Goethals is also a prosecutor for Alameda County and is a lifelong resident and native of San Mateo who serves on the board of directors for the Peninsula Health Care District. He is the current chair of the city’s Public Works Commission and is the father of two.
He is looking for the city to invest more in fixing up its streets and to invest more in its infrastructure such as the sewer system.
Hugg has been active with the city for years, serving previously on the Community Relations Commission before being appointed to the Planning Commission.
He was a former engineer with Intel before a liver transplant about 11 years ago caused him to rethink his life and pursue a career in public service. He currently works for the Housing Leadership Council and is a staunch advocate for building more affordable housing in the area. He has resided in San Mateo for 15 years with his wife.
Schmidt moved to San Mateo nearly 13 years ago and resides at the Bay Meadows Phase I development with her teen son.
She has a background in communications and marketing and decided to run for the council after “paying attention” to some of the local issues such as the 7-Eleven “debacle.”
“I want to be a public servant. I don’t want to be a politician,” she told the Daily Journal.
She would like to see downtown become cleaner with more retail boutiques.
All the candidates stressed to the Daily Journal the importance of having a vibrant downtown.
Goethals would like to see more mixed-use residential housing downtown and more parking while Schmidt would like to add a historic component to Central Park to make it a bigger draw.
Lim has a grander idea for Central Park that would better link it to downtown. He proposes to rebuild the recreation center where the tennis courts currently sit while moving the tennis courts to where the recreation center is. He would like to add a performing arts component to the rebuilt center.
“We can create a mecca for food, arts and retail for the downtown,” Lim said.
Hugg would like to see the city create a gathering space similar to Courthouse Square in Redwood City.
“We need to accentuate our open and green spaces,” Hugg said.
Ross envisions San Mateo one day becoming a world draw.
“You can’t help but to fall in love with this place,” he said. “We’ve got great schools, wonderful views, food from all over the world. We have so many resources here that can bring more commerce.”
Ross is also a big proponent of a current audit the city’s Community Development Department is currently going through. He even wanted to extend it to other parts of the city organization although Lim disagreed.
Schmidt said she opposed the audit because it would be “bad for the morale” of city workers.
With City Manager Susan Loftus retiring from the city soon, the council has the opportunity to hire the city’s next boss.
Lim wants to see someone take the job who is less of a manager and more of a leader.
Schmidt calls Loftus a “brilliant woman who is fiscally conservative” and said the city should hire someone “similar to her” to fill the city manager’s job.
The Daily Journal sat all the candidates down recently for an endorsement interview and will publish their exact answers to several questions the paper posed to them in an upcoming edition.
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