Before a standing-room-only crowd Monday evening, Los Gatos Vice Mayor Steve Rice became mayor and avoided what was sure to be citizens' protests and discontent by selecting Councilwoman Barbara Spector to the second-in-command post.
Had he not, that he would be bypassing her for the vice mayor's job.
In an unexpected move that seemed to settle the issue peacefully, Rice nominated Spector for the position after he was designated by outgoing Los Gatos Mayor Joe Pirzynski to be mayor. Their colleagues unanimously supported their nominations.
According to town tradition, with few exceptions due to wrongdoing and ethics violations, the mayoral nomination falls to the vice mayor.
Before the vote was taken for the mayoral nomination,during which much speculation was going around about who would be serving as vice mayor and the threat that she would be bypassed. Nevertheless, the seasoned councilwoman said she supported Rice as mayor as the "natural progression" observed by the town.
Saratoga Mayor Howard Miller, who's about to step down from his term as that city's top leader, thanked Pirzynski for his service as mayor and said he believed Rice would be an exceptional leader.
About the process, Miller said: "It's the way it works, we all get one-year shots and then we pass the gavel."
Rice thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to serve as Los Gatos mayor and said the honor was something he has thought about since he lost his grandfather, John Lincoln Sr., who was the town's mayor and who began his service to the community in 1941 on the Los Gatos Planning Commission.
A photo of Lincoln was shown on a large projector, which caused Rice to become emotional. Lincoln was elected to the Council in 1960 and served four consecutive years as mayor from 1962 to 1966. He retired from the Council in 1968 and went on to serve as foreman of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.
"I was fortunate enough to inherit his passion for serving this community," Rice said, adding that it will be exciting to be mayor in 2012, a year that's expected to be significant for the town as it opens a , a behind Town Hall and celebrates its 125th anniversary.
Coincidentally, he said, Lincoln, too, presided over the town's 75th anniversary during his mayoral tenure. "I feel fortunate and proud and I will work hard to serve to the best of my ability."
He then quoted Ronald Reagan: "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." Rice said that's how he plans to live his life, approach his work and serve his community.
Rice's first duty as mayor was the much-awaited controversial nomination for vice mayor. But the squable was deflated when he nominated Spector for the job.
He said the interest this year in the vice mayoral nomination was unprecedented in town history. "I want to emphasize that in thinking who would be best for the job, [it] was neither personal nor political," he said.
"In the end, my decision on who to nominate was based on what I believe was the right thing to do for the community."
Councilwoman Diane McNutt, who was presumed to be his top choice for the post, seconded Spector’s nomination.
Spector thanked community members who had supported her vice mayoral nomination during the past 10 days. She added although she will have no more power than her colleagues serving in the capacity, she considered it a great honor.
Three members of the audience, prepared to lambast Rice had he nominated someone else, openly said they had to change their speeches to a more positive tone in light of the outcome. Two of them also said they had emailed Rice expressing their concerns over the possible bypassing of Spector for the job.
"It's not hard to understand the concerns of a lot of people about the selection process for vice mayor. I, for one, don't believe there is an evil trio sitting up there, but just three people of like conscience," said longtime Los Gatos resident referring to Pirzynski, McNutt and Rice.
"What you need to do is diminish the perception of conspiracy. But that will be hard to do," Arzie noted, referring to the three council members voting in favor of the Albright Towers for the future expansion of Netflix and the Robson Home development.
"Three of you sit next to each other, you look for ques from each other, you seemingly arrive with what looks like mutual prearranged decisions. You don't vote against each other when it matters and you're all pro-growth," Arzie said.
He then told the three council members that there are residents who think they "play too much politics, instead of being custodians of our heritage as a small town." He urged them to be statesmen and not politicians "who scheme and use devices" for their own ends.
"I don't believe that the three of you are dishonest politicians, but I will say this to all five of you: No matter which camp you belong to this is a turning point ... please stop playing politics and be statesmen."
Spector said she had reflected on being selected vice mayor in 2006 and realized the town then didn't have the economic challenges and the large developments that are taking place now. "... What you will get with me as you deal with the budget and land-use is basically what you see if what you get," she said. "I will make the decisions that I consider are in the best interest of the town.
The selection of the two leaders was followed by a tribute to Pirzynki, which included a gavel presentation and a slide show of his service as mayor in 2011. A reception with cake hosted by the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce followed.
Los Gatan Phil Couchee, a past trustee, said he was pleased with outcome as it appeared to him as though the Council weighed the pros and cons of breaking tradition in the selection of vice mayor and "Steve [Rice] made the decision that he felt was the best for Los Gatos. Steve has Los Gatos at heart."