When Greg Savelli moved to the South Bay in 2006 to start his new job as the Hermosa Beach Police Chief, he was warned not to live in the city he was going to be work in.
“I was told that you’re always on duty when you live in the city,” Savelli said. “So the first year I didn’t live here, but once I got exposed to the culture and the people, I really liked it and fell in love with the town.”
For 54-year-old Savelli who is originally from the San Francisco bay area, Hermosa Beach is truly the image of a California beach town.
“Which is what I will strive to maintain,” said Savelli, who is running for city council. “Everything’s within walking distance. There are quality restaurants and shops and it’s such a relaxed environment, and we’re literally ten miles away from the big city.”
Savelli stepped down as police chief in 2012 to pursue a career as the Chief of Parking Enforcement and Traffic Control at the Department of Transportation. He currently manages nearly 1,200 employees and works within a revenue goal of $156,000,000 annually.
“It’s definitely different,” Savelli said. “Being chief here was a wonderful experience. It really brings you back to community-based policing.”
Savelli said that he’s always looking for a new challenge, which is why he changed career paths.
“I’m kind of a person that likes to fix things using a common sense approach and proper management theories and leadership,” Savelli said. “I’ve been in public service my whole life. I’ve spent over 35 years serving in different cities throughout California, and I find it’s important to provide the best level of service you can because that’s what the community expects and what they pay for.
He said that it wasn’t originally his idea to run for one of the three vacant city council seats. According to Savelli, many community members who he worked with when he was chief approached him and said that they needed him back serving the community.
“I had to decide if the timing was right,” said Savelli, who added he decided to run only after he received approval from his boss at the MTA. “Being a council member will take a lot of my off-duty time and I want to be able to really help Hermosa Beach. I don’t just want to show up here on Tuesday nights.”
He also said that his prior leadership role in the city demonstrates that he cares about Hermosa and will work to improve it.
“When I came to Hermosa Beach in 2006 I spent every Wednesday night in someone’s living room for neighborhood watch meetings,” Savelli said. “Those are the people who are asking me to get back and involved.”
He believes that his experience working for the city will give him a leg up as a councilmember.
“It gives me a good perspective on things not just budget related, but the inner workings of the city,” Savelli said. “I know all the department heads already and won’t have to be learning how to do the job. in the sense that I know where to get the answers and help.”
Issues important to Savelli don’t just include public safety.
“Issues related to crime and safety I’m obviously well suited to handle, but public safety is a theme that runs through not just the police department, but has to do with many things,” Savelli said. “Infrastructure issues like drains and sewage, to developments, and crime prevention through design – I’m on the inside track to all those types of things.”
He said that he believes that the upcoming proposed Measure B, the Quiet Nights initiative proposed by local activist Jim Lissner, addresses a problem that could be solved by other means. The initiative, which will also be on the November 5 ballot, regulates bar hours to midnight and 1 a.m. instead of the usual later closing hours.
“I don’t believe the way he’s trying to do it is appropriate,” said Savelli. “I do believe we have sufficient tools and laws to take control if necessary… When you have a tourist economy and have a lot of people that come in to town, they don’t have a sense of ownership and sometimes they leave a wake. Our job as a city is to minimize the effects of that wake on businesses and the community. It’s important that we monitor that and I have a very unique perspective on how to do that.”
Savelli added that as chief he made sure all the bars in town were adhering to their conditional use permits and if they weren’t, he took action to correct their mistakes.
“I was responsible for every ABC license and I have a unique understanding of how many we have,” said Savelli.
Recently, since deciding to run for council, he has been working to learn more about the potential E&B oil drilling issue. He said that it’s up to the community to get educated on the issue and come together to make a decision.
“It’s not going to be just my vote, it’s everybody in the community,” said Savelli. “As part of the settlement [between the city and McPherson oil] the community has the opportunity to vote yes or no, and I will support the vote of the community.”
But the recent methane leak in Hawthorne that forced the evacuation of dozens of families and the closure of Imperial Highway after gas blew out a water wall caused Savelli to question the safety of the potential Hermosa Beach project.
“I have grave concerns about the safety of drilling, and if the election was held today I would vote no,” Savelli said. “As important as this issue is, the community needs to realize that it’s in their hands. They need to get educated on the topic and make an informed decision, not an emotional one.”
Another important issue for Savelli is making sure that the voters understand how important the city’s employees are to the community.
“They have a dedicated bunch of employees throughout the city that have worked many years for them,” Savelli said. “There is constant rhetoric that they’re too expensive, but they need to know what they get for the money and to know that these employees are not living high on the hog… After years of cuts and of salary freezes, the city needs to acknowledge that you can’t run the city without the people who work for you. They need to be respected, not maligned.”
The most important part of the election is that whoever wins will do what’s right for Hermosa Beach, Savelli said.
“I’m not running against anybody, I’m running for Hermosa Beach,” said Savelli. “There are seven candidates for three positions, so may the best three get elected, and let the best three serve the community.” ER