Changing of the guard
City Council gets new mayor, three new members
It was all pomp, circumstance and sentiment at the Chico City Council meeting Tuesday (Dec. 4), as it was devoted to ceremonies honoring three departing council members, welcoming three new ones and selecting a new mayor and vice mayor.
Council chambers were filled with friends, family and political supporters of the council members.
By the time it was over, outgoing Vice Mayor Jim Walker and Councilmen Andy Holcombe and Bob Evans had been fêted and bade farewell, new Councilmembers Tami Ritter, Randall Stone and Sean Morgan had been seated, Councilwoman Mary Goloff had been selected to be mayor and Councilman Scott Gruendl to be vice mayor for the next two years, and audience members had gotten some exercise from standing for so many ovations.
Actually, it was two meetings in one. The first was held by the outgoing council, the second by the new one.
Mayor Ann Schwab presided over the first meeting, which was devoted to honoring Walker, Evans and Holcombe. Evans, who was appointed in 2010 to fill the two remaining years of former Councilman Larry Wahl’s term, failed in his election bid on Nov. 6. Walker and Holcombe were retiring from the council after four and eight years, respectively.
Schwab praised Evans’ leadership in analyzing budgets, in selecting a new city manager and in working with the business community. She spoke of Walkers’ “real sense of teamwork” and his “huge impact on the general plan,” as well as his “words of wisdom,” such as “Don’t just stand there; do nothing”—meaning that sometimes taking no action is better than taking the wrong action. And she praised Holcombe for his idealism and commitment to helping the unfortunate, as well as his ability to articulate the issues. “Andy always has the right thing to say,” she said.
For their part, the councilmen agreed that one of the joys of serving on the council was being able to disagree without disliking each other. Walker reminisced about going out for drinks after a meeting and watching Holcombe and Evans, who are miles apart philosophically, enjoying each other’s company, and what a pleasure that was.
Speaking to the new council members, he said, “If you can share Andy’s idealism and humanity and Bob’s pragmatism and faith in the individual, the city will be well served.”
Evans spoke of the “pluses and challenges” of serving, including having to read through “thick volumes” before meetings, but emphasized how much he’d enjoyed the job. His only complaint: For the first time in his life he has a closet full of expensive suits, and now he has nowhere to wear them.
Like Walker and Evans, Holcombe praised and thanked city staff and had kind words for his fellow council members. But he saved his greatest appreciation for the “engaged public” that kept the council on its collective toes. “We’re not always going to have a satisfied public,” he said, “but that’s OK. It’s better to have an engaged public.”
Then City Clerk Debbie Presson swore in the new council members and Schwab, who was re-elected to her third term on Nov. 6. In its first actions, the new panel unanimously selected Goloff and Gruendl as mayor and vice mayor, respectively.
It was then Goloff’s turn to recognize Schwab for her four years as mayor and present her with an honorary gavel carved from the historic Hooker Oak tree.
Schwab was clearly touched and had to collect herself a couple of times as she spoke of how much “fun” it was to be mayor and told of attending a children’s Christmas event and hearing the kids say of her, “Look, it’s Mrs. Claus!”
She said she was proud of her work on the updated general plan and the Climate Action Plan, and she also cited the Diversity Action Plan and the memorial to Gen. Vang Pao as significant achievements.
“I have learned how challenging it is,” she said, “how humbling, how much time it takes to be mayor, how character building it is, and what an honor it is.”
Following the ceremonies, City Manager Brian Nakamura told the new council that he wanted to hold a couple of “goal setting” meetings in January and asked them to think of possible dates.
How long will the meetings last? Schwab asked. Four to six hours each, Nakamura replied. Maybe it was his way of saying welcome.