For a while, it looked like the West Sacramento City Council race would be a quiet one, with longtime incumbents Bill Kristoff and Oscar Villegas running unopposed.
But in August, former world heavyweight champion boxer and political newcomer Oleg Maskaev joined the race, and that equation changed. In this fight, three men enter, and two men win.
Kristoff has served on the council since the city incorporated 25 years ago.
He says his top priorities are flood protection, fiscal stability and continuing the momentum the city has seen from recent downtown and riverfront development.
"I've been doing this for 25 years. I know a lot of people," Kristoff said. "I've made good decisions in the past, and the community is behind what the city is trying to do."
With 52 miles of levees, "flood protection is extremely important," Kristoff said. "We have 40,000 people to protect."
The city, Kristoff said, took aggressive steps after Hurricane Katrina to meet federal flood standards, levying a 1/4-cent sales tax and reassessing property for flood protection. He said he and city leaders will continue to work with agencies to secure protection against flooding.
Kristoff also supports Measure G. The City Council-drawn advisory measure asks residents to let the city bank redevelopment funds, including some $2.5 million expected in the current fiscal year, to invest further in city projects. California's redevelopment agencies were officially dissolved Feb. 1.
Kristoff said he'll work to maintain fiscal stability. Negotiating employee salaries and pensions have been a key component to achieving that, he said. Employees, he said, "have been very resilient. We've been fairly lucky, but with further tightening of our belts, we should be able to weather the storm."
Kristoff also supports the development of the city's riverfront and its centerpiece Bridge District near Raley Field and the Tower Bridge, calling it a "critical component to the future growth of West Sacramento."
"You maintain momentum by doing something. You don't wait for things to fall in your lap," he said.
For Villegas, the city's fiscal stability is "front and center," as is flood control.
"If we're under water, nothing else matters," he said.
Villegas favors continued growth, saying it is needed to fund levee improvements. "The only way we can do our part locally is if we're allowed to incrementally grow," he said. "We have to continue to generate revenue."
Villegas also touts moves to trim and reorganize city departments that cut staff, he said, by 30 percent in five years.
"We made difficult decisions to take a long-term approach, not just (implement) one-time cuts," Villegas said. "We went to the employee groups, put everything on the table and asked for concessions. Every step of the way, employees were willing to take their share of the responsibility. It's been hard."
Villegas also backs Measure G.
"For our city, it's a huge deal," Villegas said. Nearly half of West Sacramento fell under the city's redevelopment area. "If you like where we're heading, this creates a focus that lets us continue down that road."
Maskaev is nearly as much a newcomer to West Sacramento as he is to local politics, settling in the city in 2006.
Friends persuaded the father of four to run for office, and Maskaev said the hard work he brought to the boxing ring, his travels outside it after winning his World Boxing Council belt and his community ties have prepared him for his first campaign.
Securing flood protection is a priority, he said, but so, too, is creating jobs in the city and at the Port of West Sacramento.
"People everywhere are worried about high unemployment," he said. "People are losing their jobs."
Maskaev said drawing more small businesses to West Sacramento would help drive employment and sees opportunities to bring more traffic and jobs to the Port of West Sacramento.
"I think it's great to develop the community," he said of the city's plans for the Bridge District. "But when I see the port it's going to bring more business."
He also wants city government to forge closer ties with schools, teachers and parents to help West Sacramento youth succeed.
Ultimately, Maskaev wants to repay a debt to his adopted hometown.
"The reason why I'm running is to give back to the city. I've been very fortunate in my life," he said. "This is my hometown now, and I'm going to do my best to help the city."