■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
I’ve interviewed many politicians over the years, including such heavyweights as Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles and California’s U.S. Senator Alan Cranston. My experience has always been that they usually say as little as possible about the fewest things they’re willing to talk about. I was more than a little surprised when I sat down with recently elected Hemet Councilman Michael Perciful.
Why, I queried, did he want to be a councilman in the first place? He was so frank it took me by surprise.
“I’m a realtor. After I received my broker’s license and was running a business, I started to become more involved with the Association of Realtors,” Perciful explained. “I decided to run for the Association’s board of directors and was elected. That became the catalyst to get me to ultimately run for Council.
“My wife was a cosmetologist, and one of her clients was a member of the Hemet Planning Commission. During a conversation she suggested I should apply for an opening on the commission, so I submitted an application and someone else got the post,” he said. “I kept reapplying with the same result. Finally, I spoke to Sarah McComas, the Hemet city clerk. Sort of joking with her, I said I guess maybe I would apply one more time. I did and was finally appointed.”
Politics piqued his interest
Perciful said that he didn’t see much going on so far as development was concerned in Hemet during his tenure, but enjoyed learning how the Commission operated. That, and the time he spent as a board member at the Association of Realtors, and being involved politically as an advocate of home ownership, private rights and seeing how that process took place in Sacramento whetted his appetite. He appears to have done a lot of homework on the subject of governing.
“With some encouragement from the association board and our CEO–I was kind of pushed in that direction. I saw a need in Hemet for someone who wanted to increase home values and home ownership,” he said. “I saw that Councilman [Robert] Youssef was making a move toward leaving the Council. That was an opportunity for me to bring my background and knowledge to the Council should he actually decide not to run again. I had some serious conversations with Councilman Youssef as to how he evolved as a councilman, because he was elected in his late twenties.”
He continued to seek out advice from others. During his time on the Planning Commission Shellie Milne was elected to the City Council. She controlled his seat on the Planning Commission.
“I went to Shellie and told her that if she preferred someone else have my position on the Commission, to let me know and I’d not apply for reappointment. She said, ‘No, Mike. You’re doing a good job,’” he recalled. “Shellie and I did not see eye to eye on everything, but then we agreed we are not supposed to. I don’t understand all the hardlining in politics. We can disagree on things, but we don’t have to be uncivil with each other. Civility seems to be a missing element in politics and has been for some time. We need to compromise.”
He understands that in compromise nobody gets all they want, but each side gets something and somewhere down the line in compromise they may do better. That is politics at its best.
“Further, on deciding to run for the Council…the majority of people are working hard, that’s what they do. Their lives are focused on other things not political. They go to work, focus on putting food on their table, putting clothes on their back and a roof over their heads. However the workings of government interested me. They work all over the place. So I felt I had something to offer–ideas, hard work or getting other people involved. Those were other reasons for becoming involved in local government.”
What are his ideas?
“I saw the push to contract out to Cal Fire and started to do some research and reading up on the issue, doing cost analysis as to where and how it would be over time. That was a difference that Shellie Milne and I had. She was on this push because she had people pushing her, trying to shape her, getting her to run one way and I didn’t see it that way. Hemet is a great place.”
From San Diego to Hemet
He says that Hemet was probably the last place in California he thought of visiting, much less coming to live.
“I was a San Diego guy; had been all my life. My wife persisted that I visit Hemet, but I wasn’t interested. Following our marriage, we bought a condo in El Cajon and that became our home. Things were good. When my wife was a youngster, her parents would take road trips up this way going to Las Vegas, coming up Route 15 through Temecula, Winchester and ultimately Hemet, where they decided to make their home in a new housing tract here.”
Despite his resistance, he again performed his due diligence. He knew a guy who lived in Hemet and worked in the San Diego area. How long did it take him to drive back and forth from Hemet to his work?
“Little over an hour, he said. That seemed reasonable to me.” So he finally told his wife, “OK, let’s go look at this place. We spent Saturday and Sunday looking at properties in Hemet. Nothing pleased me,” he said. “We came to the very last housing tract and then came to the very last house. I liked the way it was set up with a big loft upstairs and I thought, ‘I can see myself in this house.’ We made an offer, which was accepted. So that’s how we made it to Hemet. I remember coming into the valley. Everything was green like it is now–mountains and hillsides. Diamond Valley Lake was being filled and so we took a drive up there.”
Back to politics.
“Everybody has their way of how they see things for whatever reason. Some are personal reasons, just because that’s how people are. I felt I could bring something to the table that wasn’t there–my experience as a police officer in Chula Vista, my military service, but most importantly my experience as a real estate broker. I was told, ‘Oh, you have your own interests.’ Yes I do,” said Perciful. “It is to make this valley and this city a better place that can raise property values and offer people a better opportunity to have a good quality of life. I didn’t see the fine inner workings of the city of Hemet. What I saw is what the Council was doing and the push to contract with Cal Fire.”
What about other personal interests?
“Glad you asked. If the economy improves, property values go up. When that happens, I earn larger commissions on my sales. Also when property values rise, assessments increase and the city receives more income to do business with. A city on the upswing brings new businesses and we all do better. That’s my personal interest.”
Not much different than most of us. This is just the beginning. Next week we will get into why he fought so hard for Measures E and U, and his disappointment and frustration with Caltrans’ attitude about Florida Avenue and the new median being proposed over an 8-mile stretch of Florida Avenue. He believes the city would be happy to take over Florida Avenue from the state if Caltrans would spend the money to bring it up to standard.
“Would any of us buy a house at market value if it required thousands of dollars in repairs?” he asked. Probably not. “So why would the city take on a project that needs millions in repairs?”
Perciful impressed me as a stand-up guy. I reminded him that The Valley Chronicle, like most media, is there to bring truth to power, and not just nitpick; that the press is not out “to get anyone.” That some people in power simply do not like the spotlight focused on their inner workings.
“I understand. That’s your job and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
How many times have you heard the powers that be over at city hall express that kind of opinion of the fourth estate?