Enthusiasm was high at Gilroy City Council Monday, as a packed chambers watched four new city council members and a mayor get sworn in after a record-breaking election on Nov. 8.
New city council members, GUSD Board president, Fred Tovar, incumbent Cat Tucker, and planning commissioner and former city councilman, Paul Kloecker swore to uphold the constitution of the United States and the State of California in an at times, emotional, ceremony.
Long-time city council member and policy aide for Santa Clara County Supervisor, Mike Wasserman, Roland Velasco was sworn in as the city’s new mayor.
Results were also confirmed for Measure H, the Urban Growth Boundary citizen initiative, which received 66.3 percent of the vote.
The meeting was also the last for Terri Aulman and Perry Woodward, who has served on the city council for four and nine years respectively.
In his final comments to the crowded chambers, Woodward said it was an honor and privlege to serve as Mayor of his hometown, and cautioned the council to remember the importance of making Gilroy’s priorities known on regional boards and committees. Woodward was the vice chair of the Caltrain board of directors and a member of the VTA board of directors, representing Gilroy.
“It’s a very bittersweet occasion,” he began. Then noted some of his accomplishments, introducing the Open Government ordinance, maintaining a balanced city budget, working to decrease the impact of gangs in the city.
He also highlighted some of the challenges that lie ahead for the city.
“It’s not enough to be involved locally,” he said, mentioning the $6.4 billion transportation measure that was passed. “Gilroy needs to be involved and engaged to ensure Gilroy’s needs are prioritized.”
After taking the central spot on the dias, Velasco, thanked city staff, fellow city council members, campaign staff, family, including wife, Lisa and Gilroy voters, who gave him nearly twice the number of votes than incumbent Perry Woodward. Then he had more serious words.
“Now that the campaign is over, it’s time to come together and govern,” he said, then proceeded to outline challenges that lay ahead for the city, including housing, downtown, unfunded liabilities, ensuring the sustainability of Gilroy Gardens, and high speed rail.
“Many other major and minor policies that the council will have to debate over the new few years.”
The new city council’s first point of action was filling the seat left vacant by Velasco’s win. The council had to decide how to fill his remaining term which ends in November 2018.
The council had the option to appoint a member on Monday, open up the process to applicants or call for a stand-alone special election, which would have cost the city $336,000.
After discussions, the council decided to appoint someone at the session and opened it up to public comments.
Resident Bill O’Connor said he recommended planning commissioner, Tom Fischer be appointed to the post as he received the fourth most votes, just 95 less than Kloecker.
“Recognize the will of the people,” he said.
Dan Harney, who was appointed to the council in January after former mayor Don Gage retired in Dec. 2015, but who came in sixth place out of eight possible candidates, also spoke.
“Just for the record if you decide to nominate a person, count on me to apply,” he said.
In the end, the council voted for continuity, with council member Dion Bracco making a motion to appoint Dan Harney to the vacant council seat, noting his work on the VTA Board as a member of the Policy Advisory committee and the region’s new energy co-op, Silicon Valley Clean Energy.
“We just heard from Perry how important our regional boards are,” said Bracco. “Mr Harney was working with Perry to get First Street paved, and they’ve come a long way on that. So I would like to make the motion to appoint Dan Harney to the position.”
The motion was passed 5-1, with Peter Leroe-Munoz, who wanted to open up the process to applicants, dissenting.
Now with a full 7-member council, the council moved to select a Mayor Pro-tem. After discussions, councilman, Fred Tovar recommended Peter Leroe-Munoz be reappointed to the position.
Velasco made a motion to appoint Dion Bracco, saying he had a conversation with him earlier in the day and Bracco had agreed to be the new mayor’s “back up person.”