Four running for Escalon council

Escalon Mayor Gary Haskins, shot in studio at the Bee. October 13, 2008.
(Bart Ah You/The Modesto Bee)
Escalon Mayor Gary Haskins, shot in studio at the Bee. October 13, 2008. (Bart Ah You/The Modesto Bee)

ESCALON -- Four candidates, including the mayor, will vie for two empty seats on the City Council in the November election.

The men will meet the public Wednesday in a "candidates night" forum.

Growth, infrastructure and public safety are high on the candidates' priority lists.

Mayor Gary L. Haskin, 59, has been on the council for 12 years. He said he's proud of his work.

"We've got our slow growth, smart growth policy here in town. That's worked very well for the city," he said. "We have a good, tight, conservative fiscal policy."

Haskin said he wants to see through plans related to Escalon's civic center and improvements on McHenry Avenue, including a bridge scheduled for construction.

His campaign strategy, he said, relies mostly on speaking with people in the community and putting out yard signs.

"Hopefully my record will speak for itself," he added.

David Webster, 62, said his roots in Escalon inspired him to run.

"The town's been good to me," he said. "My family moved here back in the 50s. My mother raised three kids. I lost my dad when I was 12 in an accident. I know what it's like to live within your means.

"There's a lot of advantages to living in a small town," he continued. "We knew the owners of the hardware store, for example. But when more corporations move in, we become more isolated."

He wants to get residents more involved in civic life.

"I hate to say this, but most times you go to City Council meetings and it's basically developers and their attorneys. I'd like to try to get more people to show up if they can," he said. "I just believe I need to voice my opinion more than five minutes a time at a City Council meeting. And I'm ready to challenge anybody."

Firefighter Matt Herrero, 29, who served on the council from 2002 to 2006, said he wants to get back in the mix.

"I got a taste of it and I liked it," he said. During the past election, Herrero decided to focus on his work with the Fire Department. "I met my goals at work and I decided I'd like to run again."

Though the council has done well managing growth, Herrero said, he thinks it's important to get fresh voices into the conversation.

"I'm tired of seeing the good-old-boys situation," he said. "Three people vote together all the time and they're running the town."

One of his goals on the council would be to make sure the city's sewer system will be prepared to handle growth.

Jeff Laugero, 41, is a former police officer and now a prosecutor for the Stanislaus County district attorney's office. He hasn't been on the council but said he's been involved with the city's budget committee and the general plan update.

"I like to be involved in the decision-making process," he said, "looking at the issues that the city is facing. How do we maintain the things we like about the city?"

He said he believes the current council members "all have the best interests of the city at heart." But he hopes to have a chance to increase public safety efforts and make senior and youth serv-ices a priority. Laugero describes himself as a "fourth-generation Escalonian."

"I have pretty deep roots in the community," he said. "We're raising our family here. I want to make sure it's a safe environment for our kids."

"Candidates night" will be held at 7 p.m. in the Ekholm Room at the Escalon library, said Amanda Swift, spokeswoman for the Escalon Chamber of Commerce.

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.