Both Westlake Seats Go Unopposed; New Face Will Join Council

There will be no municipal election in the City of Westlake in March 2024 as only one candidate filed for each of the two available seats.

Incumbent Councilwoman Charlotte Price Leonard received no opposition in seeking a full, four-year term in Seat 3.

“Actually, I was quite surprised by the lack of opposition,” Leonard said Wednesday, one day after the qualifying period closed. “There appeared to be a lot of interest… Hopefully, people feel I’m doing a good job.”

Leonard was chosen for the council in May 2022, replacing Councilman JohnPaul O’Connor, who ran unopposed for mayor and stepped into that position in March 2022, vacating Seat 3.

Seat 1 incumbent Pilar Valle Ron, also appointed to fill a vacancy, chose not to seek a full term and, in fact, resigned from the council on Nov. 8, one day after the qualifying period began.

Gary H. Werner of Key Biscayne Lane in Westlake’s Cresswind development was the only qualifier for the seat.

Werner, who moved from California to Westlake in June 2022, said Wednesday he’s looking forward to the challenge.

In Werner’s case, his start likely will be sooner than he expected, perhaps as soon as the council’s Tuesday, Dec. 5 meeting. With Valle Ron’s resignation, the council has a seat to fill between now and the official start of new council terms in March.

O’Connor said Tuesday that since Werner is councilman-elect for that seat, “I can’t imagine we’d give it to anyone else. I certainly plan to support appointing him, and that’s what I intend to recommend to my fellow council members.”

Werner was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, according to the biography he provided. In 1974, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in community planning from the University of Cincinnati.

After graduation, Werner moved to California, where he worked as planning director/city planner for the cities of La Cañada Flintridge, La Habra Heights and Big Bear Lake, and planning, building and economic development director for the City of Indio.

With his consulting firm, Community Development Consulting Services, Werner served numerous communities, including Irwindale, Azusa and Morro Bay, providing such services as preparation of general plans, environmental impact reports, administrative services and planning/zoning services.

Werner served 10 years on the Diamond Bar City Council, including a term as mayor.

Werner retired from the land use entitlement firm of Rosenheim & Associates Inc. as senior associate. He and wife Marla, who retired from nursing after 44 years, moved to Florida to be close to their daughter and her family. She also is city planner.

In a letter to voters, Werner said he was entering the race because of his “extensive background in community planning” and especially in assisting newly incorporated communities. He said he believes his knowledge and experience will help Westlake mature into a “well-planned employment and housing center with a diverse residential base and business opportunities.”

Though Werner has attended a number of council meetings since arriving, he said his first priority will be getting familiar with the council and the staff. “I’m sure that at first I’ll be doing a lot more observing than talking,” he said.

Leonard, a wife, mother, grandmother and devoted Miami Dolphins fan, grew up in the Pleasant City section of West Palm Beach. She moved to Westlake in May 2021.

She is a healthcare executive with a master’s degree in healthcare law from Nova Southeastern University. She also is a certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker through the well-known John Maxwell leadership program, and serves as board vice president for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Palm Beach County.

With a full four-year term to work with, Leonard said she will be looking for regional and statewide opportunities to expose the good things that are going on in Westlake while seeking new opportunities to advance the community. “I’ll always be asking, ‘What do we need to help Westlake flourish?’” she said.