Longtime San Marino resident and businessman Ken Ude has told The Tribune he is declaring his candidacy in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election.
Ude joins Susan Jakubowski, Calvin Lo, Dr. Hai-Sou Chen and Scott Kwong as the five declared candidates thus far. A one-month candidate filing period with the county registrar begins on July 18.
“The City of San Marino is a $24 million business and it needs to be run like one,” said Ude. “A strong business has a strategic plan, annual financial and operating goals, reporting processes for accountability and transparency, and makes data-driven decisions with the appropriate amount of risk. I think our city should have the same operating and financial disciplines. It does not.”
Ude said he has been encouraged to run for a seat on the city council “by a number of very dedicated residents who are concerned about a number of the big issues facing the city.”
“The root cause of many of the issues are financial and leadership in nature,” he said. “There are also some important issues that cut into the fabric of our community. The un-funded pension liability and deferred maintenance of our aging infrastructure are huge and must be fully understood and planned for. Not having a solid strategic plan is like driving a boat without a rudder. The hiring of a strong city manager is also crucial. Without these two anchors, decision-making is difficult and burdensome on the city council to vote their personal opinions rather than following the agreed upon plan. I think my 30-plus years of running businesses, executing the plan and understanding the numbers will be an asset to the council and to the city.”
Ude also said he believes that most residents chose to live in San Marino “for the community feel, the look of the neighborhoods and the school system.”
“And I want to protect this city,” he said. “We need to preserve what makes San Marino so special. Our neighborhoods are wonderful. The schools, Little League program and our small-town traditions like the acknowledgement of Memorial Day and the 4th of July parade help to make San Marino a premiere residential community. I get concerned about mansionization and the number of tear-downs that are rebuilt and immediately go on the market. So does seeing San Marino residential homes on the balance sheet of investment companies.”
Ude’s business career began with Rain Bird Sprinkler Manufacturing Corp. in the 1970s. He then had the opportunity to run six different private equity-backed mid-sized companies. “Most of the companies I ran were turn-around situations where we had to look hard at cutting operating expenses and improving our efficiencies,” he said. “The problem with the city is that we can’t increase revenues, so we need to look hard at expenses and how we do things. I would surmise there is a 15 to 20 percent cost savings in the city budget that could be realized by looking differently at how we staff and deliver our services.”
Cathy and Ken Ude moved to San Marino in 1986 so that their three daughters – Carolyn, Kristen and Allison – could attend San Marino schools. The Udes were active in youth sports programs and activities including AYSO, San Marino National Little League and the San Marino Schools Foundation. He was San Marino National Little League’s softball commissioner for 3 years and coached for six.
In 1999, Ude served as chairman of the Schools Foundation’s Annual Campaign and invented the now-famous yard sign program. He also served as President of the Foundation of San Marino Community Church, where he led a record-setting annual campaign drive.
“If elected, I believe I would be the first person with operating business experience to be a member of the city council since Bob Twist in 2004,” Ude said.
Ude earned his MBA and a Masters in Public Relations from the University of Southern California, where he currently runs the USC Marshall Family Business Program. Ude is managing director of The Board Group, an organization that creates and serves on advisory boards for small to mid-sized, privately held companies.