He says he knows what it is like to deal with difficult situations, to balance budgets and to instill hope in those who have given up on themselves.
Those characteristics, coupled with his experience as a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy and founder of Colette's Children's Home, which takes homeless women and children off the streets and gets them back on their feet, are what William "Billy" O'Connell says makes him different from the other 11 candidates running for Huntington Beach City Council.
"I know how to make tough decisions," O'Connell said. "I'm compassionate. I'm caring. I have common sense, and I'm a leader, and I know how to build consensus, and I know how to get the job done."
O'Connell, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010, said public safety and economic safety are his top priorities.
He wants a city that streamlines the permitting process for businesses and waives initial fees for those who want to open shop in Huntington Beach.
"We have to protect the existing businesses in our city," he said. "We have to be friendlier and helpful to these businesses so we can keep those businesses in our cities, give them incentives to come into our cities and waive their fees for one year."
O'Connell also wants a city capable of hiring more police officers.
"I know what it is like to be a victim in this city," he said of an attempted burglary at his house.
There are times when the city only has eight to 10 officers on duty, O'Connell said. Sometimes a burglary might require up to four officers for containment purposes, so "if we have a couple instances like that, we're dead in the water," he said.
While he's against Measure Z, which seeks to overturn the collection of a penny and a half on every $100 of assessed property value that goes toward safety employees' benefits, O'Connell said reforming pensions is a must.
But he said it can't be done through repealing the tax at this time nor through attacking the city's public safety employees.
"Eventually, when things get better, I would like to revisit this tax again," O'Connell said.
He wants the employee groups and the city to establish a two-tier system of retirement, where new employees retire at an older age, base their pension on a lower percentage of their pay and contribute their full share.
O'Connell also said he would like the police department to look into hiring officers out of the academy and ones who went through Golden West College to save money.
"You don't have to pay them to go to the academy — that's a savings," he said.
O'Connell is among those who are supportive of legalizing the sale of "safe and sane" fireworks in the city.
When asked his position on fireworks, given that both police and fire chiefs opposed them because legalizing them increases the use of illegal ones, he said it's about individual liberties and personal responsibilities.
"Why should my individual liberties suffer because of the illegal activities of someone else?" O'Connell said. "Are you going to take my civil liberties because someone is acting illegally? I have a problem with that."
He's also against outsourcing the city attorney's office, an attempt by Mayor Don Hansen that failed to muster the support it needed but created a buzz among city residents and employees.
"Law firms will bleed the city dry," he said.
He has garnered the support of councilmen Keith Bohr and Joe Carchio among others, including Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and former mayors Norma Gibbs and Shirley Dettloff.
Carchio said O'Connell cares deeply about the community and would make a sound councilman.
"He's a good, honest guy," Carchio said. "He might be a little bit rough on the edges, but that's his personality. All the decisions he makes will benefit the community."