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Meet the Candidates Running for City Council

Seven candidates will vie for the two open seats on the Glendale City Council in the March 5 General Municipal Election.
The News-Press asked these candidates — Vrej Agajanian, James Clarke, Vartan Gharpetian, Andre Haghverdian, Councilman Ardy Kassakhian, Karen Kwak and Denise Miller — to answer the same set of questions to give the community an opportunity to learn more about each of the candidates goals for the city. Whichever candidates emerge victorious will join Councilwoman Elen Asatryan, Mayor Dan Brotman and Councilman Ara Najarian on the dais in April.

Q: Why are you running for City Council?

Agajanian: I am running for City Council because I care deeply about the well-being of the city and its residents. I have lived in Glendale for most of my life and have seen how the city has grown and changed over the years. I have also seen issues and challenges our city has faced. My aim is to leverage my expertise and experience to effect positive change in the lives of Glendale’s residents. I envision a future for Glendale that is prosperous, secure and environmentally conscious. My goal is to shape Glendale into a place where all residents can experience a high standard of living, businesses can flourish and generate employment, and the environment is both preserved and improved.

Clarke: My decision to run for the Glendale City Council is deeply rooted in a commitment to our community, driven by the experiences I’ve gathered since moving here from the UK in 2017. As a local business owner, I’ve become intimately familiar with the challenges and opportunities facing Glendale. I’ve observed a concerning pattern in our current Council’s governance, notably a lack of balanced representation and at times, a disregard for the voices of our residents. My goal is to bring a balanced, transparent and inclusive viewpoint to the Council, advocating for practical solutions in enhancing public safety, supporting economic growth, and managing housing and development responsibly.

Gharpetian: I am running for City Council because I am deeply concerned about the future of our city. Crimes, thefts and burglaries continue to increase. Homelessness is out of control. Electricity costs have gone up by over 50%. Residential trash hauling and sewer charges are up over 250%. The current Council is in discussions to potentially increase city taxes, which will financially overburden businesses and residents. As a former Councilmember and mayor, I know these problems can be fixed.

Haghverdian: As a longtime resident of Glendale, and as a former city of Glendale employee, I love the city and would like to contribute to its improvements.
The City Council’s current fabric is lacking newer generation perspective and leadership. We must create an interest for the younger generation in our local government which will help balance new ideas into city policies.
More transparency, public safety and crime reduction, and equal opportunity are the cornerstones of our governance. And City Hall has work to do in all of the above items.

Kassakhian: I’m seeking your trust once more to serve on the Glendale City Council. A 36-year resident, I’m deeply rooted in this city, having attended our public schools and now raising my family here. I’m a husband, father and a committed community member who prioritizes your welfare in every decision I make, just as I’ve done throughout my tenure on the Council and as mayor.
Glendale is where my heart lies, and I’ve seen it evolve from the past to the present, envisioning an even brighter future with the right leadership. I know what has worked and what can be better.

Kwak: Watching City Council meetings is like walking into an alternate universe because City Hall discussions bear little resemblance to the concerns of everyday Glendale residents. We need Councilmembers who understand the daily problems of most Glendale residents and create solutions that work for us. We need to make City Hall more open and customer-friendly for all the people of Glendale.

Miller: Born in Glendale, I have lived and worked here since 2001. Over the years, I have witnessed the challenges we face, and I am committed to addressing them with fresh perspectives, thoughtful policies and collaborative decision-making processes. I have been called to serve many times throughout my career, leading diverse projects with complex requirements, involving multiple stakeholders with competing agendas. I am reasonable and fair-minded; I find resources that others overlook. I am known for “getting things done” in bureaucratic systems in an efficient, effective and friendly manner.

Q: What issues are most important to you and what are your stances on those issues?


  • Promoting the growth and prosperity of local businesses that contribute to the city’s development and well-being.
  • Guaranteeing the safety of the city for all its residents and businesses, as it is an essential element of their comprehensive welfare.
  • Initiating steps toward creating a cleaner and more environmentally friendly city by expanding green spaces, promoting energy efficiency and supporting the use of renewable energy sources.
  • Additionally, my priority is public safety, reducing crime and ensuring Glendale is a safe city.

Clarke: The forefront of my campaign focuses on public safety, economic development and housing. Public safety is paramount, encompassing not just policing but creating a supportive environment for every resident. This involves enhancing police force capabilities and addressing root causes of issues like homelessness with services such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and mental health support.
Economic development is crucial, and as a small business owner, I understand the challenges faced by local businesses. My advocacy is geared toward creating a conducive environment for businesses of all sizes, fostering a vibrant local economy. On housing, Glendale faces challenges in affordability and development. I aim to work toward solutions that provide more affordable housing options while preserving our neighborhoods’ unique character and distinctive neighborhoods.


  • Ensuring and prioritizing public safety.
  • Addressing homelessness and increasing mental health resources.
  • Providing affordable and reliable power.
  • Addressing affordable housing demands.
  • Streamlining Historic District formation process.
  • More open space and parks in South Glendale.
  • Offering more environmentally friendly resources/programs.


  • Streamline city services such as permitting: The city has the resources to do this but hasn’t taken steps in this direction. Streamlined is different from computerized. A computerized system can still not be streamlined if the result is as bad as the non-computerized system. The goal should be better optimal service rather than fast, unproductive responses.
  • Invest in affordable renewable energy sources: Glendale’s entitlement in Hoover Dam has created an edge for the residents since 1937 and we should continue bold investments in smart, affordable renewable energy sources to secure more affordable power sources for residents.
  • Open space, traffic circulation and protecting neighborhoods: Although housing is a statewide challenge, the city has an obligation to protect its neighborhoods. The city is allowing large developers to scoop up premium land, develop and leave rather than supporting smaller local developers.
  • Transparency: Response times when calling the city have increased over the years and often residents never get called back. It’s not the city employees’ fault but rather it’s the top who gives direction. There is also a lack of transparency when it comes to employee-related legal actions against the city in the last 5 to 7 years, which resulted in substantial pay-outs in and out of court from the city general funds. Although most of our Councilmembers have good intentions, they are not elected to agree with executives but to analyze and challenge decisions from city staff. The Council just approved an $80,000 raise for the city manager, while residents are getting slammed by the high price of utilities, which is scheduled for a 36% price hike in the next two years.

Kassakhian: My campaign for City Council revolves around vital priorities for Glendale’s future.
Firstly, I’m dedicated to protecting our neighborhoods by providing our public safety personnel with the resources they need to maintain our safety. I understand that the core of any community lies in its neighborhoods, and I’m committed to ensuring Glendale remains safe and welcoming for all.
Addressing environmental concerns is paramount, and I’m determined to bolster climate change resilience and sustainable practices across all city services. Safeguarding our city against a changing world is crucial for future generations.
Affordable housing is another pressing issue, especially for seniors and low-income residents. I’m resolute in increasing affordable housing options, ensuring everyone has a safe and comfortable place to call home.
Traffic congestion and mobility issues plague our city, and I’ll continue to advocate for comprehensive, sustainable transportation solutions that enhance daily life for Glendale residents.


  • Implementing Council districts
  • Renters’ Rights: We need the right to counsel and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), so renters can buy the buildings they live in.
  • Clean energy and water: We need to make sure that our children will enjoy fresh air and clean water by leading with sustainable energy, water and transit solutions.

Miller: Equitable distribution of resources and access to high-quality services for all residents is paramount in social reform and progress. I will work tirelessly to identify and rectify any disparities in resource allocation, whether related to infrastructure, public education, health care or other critical services, specifically for mental health. By conducting thorough assessments of city programs and services for the purposes of budget management, I will identify areas for improvement, efficiency and cost savings without compromising essential services.
Sustaining a healthy environment has a direct link to the health of the community. I will advocate for comprehensive waste reduction programs, including increased recycling infrastructure and support for community education initiatives. Businesses are the backbone of our community. I will champion initiatives that support the growth of local businesses and partner with city management to make sure that our city departments are motivated to make it easier for businesses to work in Glendale.

Q: Do you support moving to City Council districts? Why or why not?

Agajanian: I do not support moving to City Council districts because I believe doing so may lead to Councilmembers advocating for their specific district rather than the city as a whole. I hold the view that Councilmembers should bear responsibility for the entire city, not merely the district they represent. Generally, having districts also makes it less likely for incumbents to be challenged.

Clarke: I oppose moving to district-based representation for Glendale’s City Council. The current at-large system, where Councilmembers are elected citywide, promotes cohesive governance and ensures all areas of the city are equally represented. Districts could result in fragmented governance and uneven development. I favor maintaining our current system, including the one-year rotational mayoral term, which ensures diverse leadership and fair governance, and negates the ability for wealthy donors to influence the choice of city mayor.

Gharpetian: No. Studies have shown that no matter how the district maps are drawn, we wouldn’t be able to find an area in Glendale where it will serve the purpose of California Voting Rights Act. Glendale has very diverse demographics throughout the city. For over a century, there have never been any issues or lack of representation on the Council. With at-large elections, every resident is represented by five Councilmembers rather than just one. I believe that electing the City Council by districts will create unnecessary division among residents in the city. Districting also creates means for more corruption. In many cities that have City Council elected by districts, several Councilmembers have been arrested and faced with corruption charges, perjury and embezzlement. Furthermore, the voters of Glendale voted against districting in the 2017 elections.

Haghverdian: I don’t support the districting of the Council. Each and every Councilmember should work for all residents, not for his or her district. Collectively, there will be more benefits to the residents than each Councilmember trying to sway the resources to their own district.

Kassakhian: I champion districted elections and publicly funded campaigns to ensure diverse voices are heard on the Council. Glendale has lacked representation from specific areas for far too long, and it’s time to ensure all parts of our city are represented.

Kwak: Creating City Council districts is my top issue because the people of South Glendale need guaranteed representation in every election. It is not an accident that in the last 100 years, only one Councilmember has been elected from South Glendale under the at-large system. It is also not an accident that although 67% of Glendale residents are renters, renters are not represented on the Council. Most South Glendale residents are renters. We need to make our city government fair and democratic for everyone. I advocated for Council districts in 2021 and again in 2023, when the Council voted to place Council districts on the ballot for November 2024.

Miller: I need to examine the evidence that has already been presented to Council. Once I understand the problem statement, assess the evidence, understand my colleagues’ positions and listen to the public, I will have an opinion about Council districts.

Q: What makes you uniquely qualified to serve the city of Glendale?

Agajanian: I am uniquely qualified to serve the city of Glendale because I have extensive experience in public service. I had the privilege of serving as a City Councilmember from 2017 to 2022 and was mayor of Glendale in 2020. During the pandemic, I was also the only Councilmember present in the Council Chamber and the only one with an open office.
Furthermore, my campaigns have always been funded by small dollar donations from people who have been viewers of my nightly television show. This has allowed me to remain in close contact with the residents of Glendale, as well as staying independent from special interest groups and lobbyists. I believe that my expertise, independence and commitment to the people of Glendale will help improve our city.

Clarke: My qualifications for the City Council come from a unique blend of international and local experiences. Relocating from London, England, to Glendale, I bring a diverse perspective shaped by different cultural and business environments, and an accomplished career innovating in technology across multiple sectors. As a small business owner, I possess practical skills in problem solving and strategic planning, crucial for effective city governance. My commitment to serving Glendale is grounded in transparency, fairness and practicality, and I am dedicated to bringing a balanced and thoughtful approach to the Council.

Gharpetian: My extensive business background as a business owner, and my decades of service in local government speaks for itself. My civic involvement in Glendale dates back two decades. Before getting elected to the City Council, I served on several city boards and commissions for 10 years. While I was on the Council, I served on the board of directors of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), League of California Cities, California Contract Cities Association and the Glendale-Pasadena-Burbank Airport Commission.
When I was mayor, we worked with and invested in our police and fire departments to keep Glendale safe. We kept utility costs down. We reduced wasteful spending and maintained a balanced budget. We eliminated red tape that hurt small businesses.
I am not a career politician, and I am not beholden to any special interest groups. I am easily accessible to constituents and I always take their concerns seriously.

Haghverdian: My experience in the public sector, construction, engineering, risk management, management of large publicly funded programs and collaboration skills have prepared me for this challenge. Also, my work experience as a city employee from 2001 to 2011 provided me a clear understanding of city government.

Kassakhian: With over 15 years as city clerk and four as a Councilmember navigating tough decisions during the pandemic, I bring unique insights to our city’s strengths and areas in need of improvement. My commitment to making Glendale an even better place to live fuels my candidacy.
I humbly ask for your vote and support. Together, we can work towards a brighter future for Glendale. To learn more about my campaign, visit ArdyKassakhian.com. Thank you for considering me as your representative on the Glendale City Council.

Kwak: I have attended City Council meetings every week for many years and know a lot about how City Hall works across all issues — the policies, the processes and the personalities. I have successfully worked with community groups and with the City Council to pass legislation on housing, environmental and government reform issues. As an all-around activist, I am in a strong position to speak on behalf of people who have been historically unrepresented in City Hall. If elected, I can “hit the ground running” on day one, by combining my knowledge of City Hall with the fresh ideas and perspectives that I bring in from the outside. Visit my website to learn more at KwakforChange.com.

Miller: I am a licensed occupational therapist with a master’s degree in business administration. I have served on the California Board of Occupational Therapy, one of 42 boards under the California Department of Consumer Affairs with regulatory and disciplinary authority. I was appointed in 2013 and reappointed in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown and reappointed in 2019 by Gov. Gavin Newsom. I was elected to serve as board president four times in the past 10 years, most recently during 2023. The policy decisions I make as a Councilmember must be decided with the needs of serving the greater good and not my own self-interests or that of special interest groups.
To learn more about where each candidate stands on various issues, tune into a candidate forum, hosted by the Verdugo Woodlands Dads Club at 1728 Canada Blvd., on Jan. 25 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Stay up to date on future election events by visiting glendalevotes.org.

First published in the January 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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