California Courier

Laguna Niguel City Council Candidates: Their reasons for entering the race and what they hope to achieve

With General Elections fast approaching, Laguna Niguel residents have six candidates to consider for the two vacant seats on the City Council. Each candidate shares their own reason for entering the race, and how they hope to influence the direction of the young city.

The Laguna Niguel Coastal Fire that almost took the home of Javad Mokhbery, became the impetus for his entering the city council race. Mokhbery would like to be on the council that plans for the safety of the Laguna Niguel in cases of emergency, be that wildfire or earthquake.

If he is successful in his bid for council member, Mokhbery would work to create a water reserve in the canyon with access for first responders, to reduce the danger or wildfires as part of his priority on fire safety and prevention. Public safety, the local economy, education and homelessness are all issues he wants to address.

Mokhbery and his wife are philanthropists dedicated to sponsoring educational entities.

An immigrant who put himself through college to become an engineer and business owner, Mokhbery says, “I greatly appreciate the importance of preparation and planning. “A failure to plan is a plan for failure.”

During the pandemic, Jeff von Waldburg felt deeply the effects of the restrictions and mandates imposed on residents. Turning frustration into action, von Waldburg decided to take up the challenge and become involved with the leadership of the city.

As a city councilmember, von Waldburg would make fiscal responsibility, public safety, local businesses and city infrastructure the focus of his efforts.

Von Walburg is actively involved with the Chamber of Commerce, and the Laguna Niguel Military Support Committee. “I’m actively involved in our community,” von Walburg states, “I have coached DHHS football, various youth sports and served as Adventure Guides Circle Chief.”

The CEO of a software company which improves the efficiency of government agencies, von Walburg says, “I’m most proud of how my company has transformed the process the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to care for disabled Veterans.”

Melissa Caldwell entered the race because she came to the realization that the more engagement you have within your community, the more opportunities you encounter to create positive change for generations to come.

She’d like to see the city remain financially strong and foster community outreach allowing residents to feel included in the changes being discussed.

If elected, public safety, sound fiscal policies, responsible development, and economic opportunity with a focus on protecting the local economy and small business, are three areas she would prioritize.

Cladwell enjoys gardening and thrift shopping with her daughter in her spare time.

An education advocate, and Chief Operating Officer, Caldwell says “I’ve been so involved in the community that I don’t want there to ever be a disconnect between our local government and our community members,”

Ray Gennawey is a candidate who wants to ensure that Laguna Niguel remains one of the safest cities in California. “In a state where crime is rising in every city, we are not immune from that rising crime,” he said. “I’m running to keep our community safe, our city finances strong and to preserve the character of Laguna Niguel.”

If he becomes a member of the City Council, Gennawey would fight for safe neighborhoods, low taxes, a balanced budget, thriving local businesses and preserving open spaces.

Gennawey is an active member of the organization, Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charity with worldwide outreach for the needy.

An Orange County Deputy District Attorney who lived his whole life in Laguna Niguel, Gennawey says “Running for city council is very natural for me because I know our town better than any other candidate, and our town knows me better than any other candidate.”

Stephanie Oddo, once a council member in the state of Florida, wants a seat on the Laguna Niguel City Council. “Laguna Niguel is so young, it’s 30 years old, we need to plan for the future.” she stated.

Oddo’s plan for the city, if elected, includes her priority to improve transparency, keep the community safe, improve fire safety, preserve open spaces, support small businesses, and keep the city fiscally strong with no debt or additional pension liability.

Oddo founded the non-profit organization Healthcare Mask Collaborative. The charity supplied masks to Camp Pendleton, the navy ship USS Theodore Roosvelt, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and several other organizations.

A public school educator, Oddo says “Anytime I go into an organization, I want to make sure I do something that is still there even after I’m gone. Because that’s what makes your time worthwhile.”

Stephanie Winstead hopes that her vast experience in serving the city of Laguna Niguel in various capacities would be appreciated by voters. “I’ve been active in the city for over a decade. I’ve done so many things there are to do within the city, with the exception of sitting on the city council,” she said.

As a councilwoman, if elected, Winstead names public safety, support for small businesses, fiscal responsibility, preservation of open spaces and services for seniors as her key issues. “Under my leadership, Laguna Niguel will continue to have a balanced budget, zero debt, and the lowest possible taxes.” she stated.

Winstead’s volunteerism and service is extensive. She’s also worked as a volunteer Mediator for the Orange County Superior Court, mentored young women and entrepreneurs to access resources, been active with the Pinewood Derby and Cub Scouts to name a few.

An attorney and small business owner, Winstead says, “I have the experience needed to continue leading our city with compassion and grace while ensuring your voice is heard on the City Council.”

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