Don Gage takes the Council stage

Al Pinheiro jokes with new mayor Don Gage during a special ceremony Friday at City Hall.

In the midst of all the shoulder patting, thanking, well-wishing and congratulating that transpired at the City Council chambers Dec. 7 when the public officially welcomed Don Gage as their new mayor, retiring Councilman Bob Dillon’s parting words put it best.

“Now it’s someone else’s turn,” said Dillon, who has served two separate terms over the course of nine years beginning in 2001.

The chambers were packed with more than 100 friends, family and community members who showed up to thank outgoing Mayor Al Pinheiro for his service since 2004 and to watch Gage take his newly elected seat.

Also being sworn in were Councilman Perry Woodward and Councilwoman Cat Tucker for second terms, as well as newcomer Councilwoman Terri Aulman, who took over Dillon’s now empty seat.

The mood was jovial with bouts of earnest expression from the retiring Pinheiro and Dillon.

“I cannot express enough the honor that I feel for being your mayor these last nine years,” Pinheiro said.

Pinheiro showed the audience a slideshow of the Council’s accomplishments during his two-term leadership. This included the construction of the new library on Sixth Street, and improvements to downtown such as the Gilroy Demonstration Garden and the ongoing paseo project.

He also used his last words to express frustration toward the Dispatch (or the “newspaper”) for highlighting his mistakes and not giving attention to the many things he accomplished.

“The paper at times loved to make  (strife between Council members) a bigger deal than it was,” Pinheiro said, his voice laced with emotion. “We never got credit for the job that this Council did. We never got credit.”

In a ceremonial moment, Pinheiro called Gage up to the podium and went in for a handshake that somehow awkwardly morphed into a full embrace.

“This is the final goodbye. See you around,” Pinheiro said in closing, pounding his gavel for the last time as mayor. The audience stood when he finished, giving him a long round of applause.

Gage then took his seat and raised his right hand, joined by Woodward, Tucker and Aulman, all four swearing to serve and protect the Gilroy community to the best of their abilities.

With the speeches and parting wishes of Pinheiro and Dillon behind him, Gage addressed the audience from his new seat more than an hour into the meeting. He kept his words short.

“A public servant should be a public servant,” he said. “If you have issues, I want you to call this Council. We’re going to make sure that everybody in the community gets what they feel they deserve.”

Gage, a 68-year-old lifelong Gilroy resident and 1963 Gilroy High School graduate, served two terms as mayor from 1991 to 1997. He then won the seat to represent District 1 (South San Jose to Gilroy) as a Santa Clara County Supervisor before his term expired. He served on the Water District’s board of directors from 2010 to 2012, a publicly elected seat.

Gage also held a 30-year career at IBM. He and his wife Jeanne have three children and six grandchildren.

In a heartfelt and eloquent address to the audience, 65-year-old Dillon reflected on his nine years served on Council, celebrating the good – such as the construction and opening of the new library, which he referred to as ‘the miracle on Sixth Street,’ and the painful cuts made by Council to preserve the City’s budget. He also lamented the mistakes and projects left undone, such as the City’s crumbling sidewalks caused by city-planted trees all over town.

“I can’t think of anything that pissed me off more than seeing another sidewalk (claims for damages) from someone who hurt themselves on our streets,” Dillon said.

In good spirits, Dillon addressed some of the quarreling that has transpired between Council members during his tenure, reminding each of his colleagues of the deep respect he has for them.

Dillon, who is especially known for dealing a hearty dose of snark to Councilman Peter Arellano as the two often come out on opposite sides of Council discussions, reminded Arellano that he is a great admirer of his life story.

Arellano was born in Gilroy to working class parents who sacrificed to send their son to Gavilan College, UCLA and later Stanford University, where he graduated with a degree in medicine.

“I’ve never doubted where your heart is. I’ve never doubted it is in Gilroy,” Dillon said to Arellano.

As a parting wish, Dillon announced he hopes that Councilman Dion Bracco, who recently came in last place behind his two rivals – Gage and Arellano – in the Nov. 6 election, would take another stab at the seat in a few years.

“Dion I urge you to do so. I think you have a great story to tell. You admit that you have made mistakes,” Dillon said, referring to Bracco’s 1990 felony drug conviction the Dispatch reported earlier this year. “But you have redeemed yourself. Run again. I’ll support you.”

Gage is confident that with the election behind them, the new Council can flourish under his leadership – once he works out a few kinks.

Gage said that he’s met one-on-one with Bracco to put aside any animosity that may have arisen during the campaign.

“The election is over, that is old history now. I know we’ll be able to work together well,” Gage said.

He also plans to meet with Arellano, who lost at his bid for the mayor’s seat with 29.6 percent of the vote.

“Just like a private corporation that has a goal, every element of that corporation has to focus on the primary goal. Our goal is to serve the people of Gilroy,” Gage said.

Gage said he is focused on getting Council members to set aside personal conflicts to work together more effectively.

What he’s observed lately is Council members opposing ideas from one another because of the manner in which it is presented, or because of their dislike for that particular member – rather than the actual content of the idea.

Gage said he’s ready to put that trend to rest.

“They do bicker and we, or I, have got to stop that,” he said.

When asked how he planned to curb the squabbling, Gage laughed.

“I’ll probably bring a stun gun and pop them,” he said.

Councilman Bob Dillon is known for his unabashed honesty and free-wielding sarcasm, and the Dispatch has enjoyed capturing verbal nuggets during Dillon’s nine years of service on the dais. Here is a roundup of some of our favorites. Farewell, Bob.
• “Here’s the problem. I feel like I sent you back to grab a watch and tell me what time it was, and you came back with instructions on how to build a watch. It’s two lines on the street. Paint them.” – When City staff told Council that they removed a crosswalk because crosswalks are unsafe, according to studies. Nov. 5, 2012
• “That was pretty idiotic. At least he resigned so we didn’t have to fire him. How dumb can you get.” – On the Interim Fire Chief Roger Bloom’s arrest for selling alcohol to minors. Sept. 10, 2012
• “I dodge nobody.” – When some Council members were accused of being hard to reach by phone. May 3, 2012
• “What’s the point of making laws that will go into a dusty old book where everyone ignores them?” – On the City’s complicated and detailed signage law. March 19, 2012
• “Cities today are like a bunch of dogs underneath the table waiting for the scraps to drop. That’s what HSR is: Everybody waiting to see if the government is going to drop any money into their community.” – On his disdain for High Speed Rail. March 1, 2011.
• “I’ve gone from ‘No’ to ‘Hell no.’” – On his opposition to the Habitat Plan. March 28, 2011
• “Please, drive a stake through its heart.” – On High Speed Rail. Nov. 2, 2011
• “Wonderful, I’ll be dead.” – On high speed rail being delayed until 2033. Nov. 2, 2011
• “I suppose it’s one of those annoying things that good manners and common sense would cure, but we both know how rare those qualities are.” – On the abundance of illegal yard sale signs around town. Sept. 19, 2011
• “I would rather have my teeth pulled with no anesthesia than support the project.” – On High Speed Rail. Aug. 2, 2010
• “I don’t give a damn how you feel about it. It’s not against the law, and I’m going to do it if I feel like it.” – To Mayor Al Pinheiro, on continuing to meet with two council colleagues on the sunshine ordinance. July 7, 2008

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