For years in the last decade, it was a common line in Huntington Beach City Council stories:
"The council voted 6 to 1, with Jill Hardy dissenting."
Hardy, who served on the council from 2002 to 2010 and is running again this year, often did not speak for the majority on the dais. A casual observer might think she was playing the devil's advocate. She would call herself the residents' advocate instead.
Hardy cast the lone "no" vote on the new Downtown Specific Plan, which lays out rules for the future of the city's prime commercial hub, and Pacific City, a massive seaside development that has stalled since getting the council's go-ahead. She differed on the Ridge development project, which seeks to build houses on an area some consider environmentally sensitive.
That last vote, which came after residents spoke for hours against the development, still makes her grimace.
"Everyone probably knew it was a losing battle, but at least they had one person who said, 'I hear you,'" Hardy said Monday in the living room of her Surf City home.
And this year, evidently, many people around town have heard Hardy. As the Marina High School math teacher runs for a third term on the council after being termed out for two years, she has racked up endorsements from the city's fire and police associations, HB Neighbors President David Rice, Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn. leader Kim Kramer, Councilwoman Connie Boardman and many others.
If Hardy wins election this year, she plans to push for the same things she championed in her first two terms: protecting the environment, fighting for green space, opposing development if residents see it as an encroachment on their lives. And while she often found herself on the losing end of lopsided votes in the past, she doesn't expect that always to be the case this time.
She often agrees, she said, with the philosophies of Boardman and Joe Shaw, who were elected in 2010. And she noted that she shares endorsements this year with several more conservative candidates, indicating that they may find common ground on specific issues. (Fire and police also endorsed Billy O'Connell and Jim Katapodis; Women in Leadership favored Hardy and Barbara Delgleize.)
In a race dominated by well-known names — only three of the 12 candidates have never served on a city commission or run for council before — Hardy is one of the most experienced, with two terms on the council and a stint on the Planning Commission behind her. But she's also the second-youngest name on the ballot.
In fact, no younger candidate has made the dais since Hardy won election a decade ago at age 31. Still, she was hardly a political neophyte at the time; years before the Planning Commission, she served as a teenager on the Huntington Beach Youth Board, which advises the city on youth-related issues.
Hardy, a fourth-generation Huntington resident, grew up in a household where political discussions were routine.
"It was common at the dinner table to talk about how downtown was changing," she said. "I can still hear my grandfather grumbling about it. It seemed like everyone talked about it, but nobody did anything."
Over the years, Hardy has complemented her elected positions with community activism, serving with the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, Huntington Beach Tomorrow and other groups. She's also taken her politics beyond Surf City; in 2000, she cast a vote as a member of California's Electoral College, and she traveled to Denver in 2008 as a delegate for the Democratic National Convention.
Boardman, who served on the council with Hardy from 2002 to 2004, said recent history has vindicated Hardy as a champion of residents: The Ridge, Downtown Specific Plan and senior center in Huntington Central Park, all of which she voted against, have been targeted in lawsuits by environmentalists or grassroots groups.
"Jill represents the residents of the city," Boardman said. "She has their interests at heart — not outside developers, not wealthy people who are hiding behind some PAC, but the residents."