After 25 years of public service to the City of Agoura Hills, mayor and councilmember Bill Koehler announced that he will not run for reelection in November.
Koehler is the first of three incumbents to announce plans for the fall election.
Councilmember Harry Schwarz said he will run for reelection, but Denis Weber, the city’s longest serving City Council member, hasn’t said whether he will seek another four-year term on the panel.
Koehler has been a civic leader nearly as long as he has lived in Agoura Hills. He moved to the city in 1984 with his wife, Mary Jo, served as the director of the Morrison Ranch Homeowners Association for nine years and was selected to serve on the city’s planning commission in 1993, a position he held for 12 years.
In 2005, Koehler was elected to the City Council.
He helped shape the city’s identity by working on land-use issues, acquiring open space and developing community programs that continue to this day.
“I believe it is time that I explore the next phase of my life,” Koehler told The Acorn.
His tenure on the council included three terms as mayor.
Koehler introduced the creation of the city’s Cultural Arts Council, which helped brand the city as an art hub with a variety of fine arts and film festivals, a speakers bureau and city-sponsored theater and school productions.
Under Koehler’s watch, the city continued with the Art in Public Places program, movies and concerts in the park, and the annual Reyes Adobe Days event that celebrates Agoura Hills’ past.
Koehler also introduced the Agoura Hills Community Service Day, which brings together hundreds of volunteers to work on beautification projects at parks, schools, creek beds or any area in need of spiffing up.
Because traffic is an ongoing problem, Koehler brought together Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks and officials from Caltrans and Las Virgenes and Oak Park school districts to look at ways to ease traffic on Kanan Road between the 101 Freeway and Oak Park.
“It is my hope that the next City Council continues to seek solutions to the Kanan Road traffic problem,” he said.
Koehler may be retiring from the council, but has no plans to leave his job as an attorney.
“I’m just looking forward to some additional free time,” he said. “We look forward to traveling and spending time with our daughter and her husband in Colorado. I have no plans to move from Agoura Hills. This is a great city and wonderful area to live in. This is one of the reasons I was happy to participate in city politics.”
Koehler, like all members of the City Council, has been listening to the community uproar over Cornerstone, the first mixed-use development planned for Agoura Village, south of the 101 Freeway.
Some residents believe the Agoura Village plan is outdated and should be revisited before the area is overbuilt and additional traffic is imposed.
Schwarz said Koehler feels he may have lost the confidence of some residents, including former mayors and other activists who believe Cornerstone and the Agoura Village concept in general need to be revisited.
“The Cornerstone project met the (Agoura Village) Specific Plan standards,” Schwarz said. “The developer went through a number of iterations over eight years.”
But he said the plan may need to be reviewed since the retail climate has changed dramatically over the years, specifically due to online shopping.
Councilmember Denis Weber appointed Koehler to the city’s planning commission 25 years ago. He said he understood Koehler’s “frustrations and disappointments” regarding recent attacks on the Agoura Village Specific Plan that previous city councils had supported for years.
“I think it took its toll and due to that we will be losing a good man and one that always tried to do a good job and was well liked and respected by his colleagues and residents alike,” Weber said.
“I will miss Bill a lot,” Schwarz said. “I admire him greatly and his clear thinking.”
Other colleagues agree.
“He always came to meetings well-prepared,” said Councilmember Illece Buckley Weber. “His questions were thought-provoking, and he always balanced the two sides of every issue. Bill has served with integrity and led by example. His knowledge and insight will be missed.”
Counci lmember Linda Northrup said she felt fortunate to travel to Washington, D.C. with Koehler this year, advocating on Capitol Hill for issues of importance to Agoura Hills.
“He has worked tirelessly during his most recent term as mayor to make progress on the traffic congestion issues in our Kanan corridor.” Northrup said.
Koehler said he will leave the city in good hands.
“We have been fortunate to have thoughtful, knowledgeable and civic-minded council members that preceded me, and that includes our current council,” he said. “It has been my pleasure to have served what we all know to be a wonderful community.”