Women rule

Kirk and Jarvis named Chico’s mayor and vice-mayor

WELCOME ABOARD<br>Judge Darrell Stevens congratulates newest Councilmember Scott Gruendl as he steps into the realm of Chico government, as newly re-elected Councilmember and former Mayor Dan Herbert looks on.

Judge Darrell Stevens congratulates newest Councilmember Scott Gruendl as he steps into the realm of Chico government, as newly re-elected Councilmember and former Mayor Dan Herbert looks on.

Photo By Tom Angel

Mayoral experience:
Councilmember Maureen Kirk has served as vice mayor for the past two years. During that time she replaced Mayor Dan Herbert a couple of times and did not hesitate to pound the mayor’s gavel with force to bring rowdy meetings under control.

This week’s City Council meeting had a feminine, if not a full-blown feminist, theme, beginning with the Girl Scouts presenting the flag to start the proceedings. Soon after, Councilmember Maureen Kirk was appointed mayor by unanimous vote, and then Councilmember Coleen Jarvis became vice-mayor by the same count.

No sooner had Butte County Superior Court Judge Darrell Stevens given newly elected Councilmembers Kirk, Dan Herbert and Scott Gruendl their oaths of office, than the new council voted for the two women to lead its bimonthly meetings. Although it’s largely a symbolic position, the mayor does set the agenda and direct and control the meetings.

As first order of business, Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan nominated Kirk, and immediately Jarvis moved to close the nomination process. The council voted 7-0 to hand the mayor’s gavel, made of wood from the city’s famed Hooker Oak tree, to Kirk.

Without delay, Nguyen-Tan then nominated Jarvis for vice-mayor. The whole process was over in about three minutes.

Kirk thanked her family and said she was honored to be named mayor.

“I just can’t believe I am,” she said.

Kirk said she would like to see two new council subcommittees formed, a “town/gown committee” that would have councilmembers meet with Chico State University, Butte College and local high school students, and a veterans committee headed by Councilmember Larry Wahl, the lone veteran on the council.

With that business out of the way, the council adjourned to a conference room for refreshments.

“I think our council is going to get along really well,” Kirk said. She called the new council, which many observers see as leaning more to the progressive side than any council in the past six years, a “positive” assemblage that will “surprise the community.”

New Mayor Maureen Kirk said she is both honored and surprised to hold the mayor’s gavel.

Photo By Tom Angel

She said that planning the northwestern parts of Chico for growth is on the council’s front burner, and that she hoped to “bridge a gap” between divergent political views on the council.

She said she sees her role as a “facilitator” of meetings and considers herself as the “classically middle” vote on the council.

But just as quickly she said that within a few weeks expired terms on the city’s boards and commissions would be filled, and as an unavoidable consequence “a lot of people’s feelings are going to be hurt. I’ve never had to do that because I’ve never been in the majority before.” The implication was that the new majority would be making significant changes.

One big issue facing the council is what to do about the old Humboldt Dump, a contaminated site in east Chico that the state says must be cleaned.

“I want to get something the community is happy with, or at least closely happy with,” she said. “That is the only meeting I am not looking forward to.”

Councilmember Steve Bertagna, a past mayor and a conservative, said he sees the new council as “quite a departure from the direction we were headed in the past.

“I hope we can maintain the professionalism of the past, and that we don’t lose sight of everybody in our community.”

He added that he would have liked to have seen fellow conservative Councilmember Larry Wahl named vice mayor as a conciliatory move on the new majority’s part.

“I was shocked that he wasn’t,” Bertagna said.

Nguyen-Tan, the person who nominated both positions, said he did so for a simple reason.

“I can think of two people who are most deserving people on the council," he said. "And now they are the mayor and the vice mayor. I couldn’t help but observe the symbolism of the Girl Scouts doing the flag procession, and now to have the two women lead the council is an honor."