Months after losing seat he held 30 years, John Heilman returns to WeHo council

In West Hollywood, councilman who lost seat after 30 years makes comeback three months later

John Heilman sat on West Hollywood's inaugural city council, back when the city was incorporated in 1984.

Earlier this year, after 30 years, he walked away from his seat after losing an election.

That lasted a grand total of three months.

On Tuesday, Heilman was reelected to the West Hollywood City Council after a special election. He will fill the seat that was vacated by Jeffrey Prang when he was elected county assessor in November.

Heilman’s defeat in March had been a rare loss in a city where incumbents tend to warm their council seats for a long time.

Before the fall election, all but one council member had been in office for more than a decade. Longtime Councilwoman Abbe Land stepped down in March after 23 years in office and five stints as mayor.

“I’m honored and humbled by your support and trust,” Heilman told his supporters on Facebook after voters returned him to the council.

Heilman received 2,026 votes -- 48% of the total cast -- in the at-large election, according to unofficial results released by the city Tuesday night. Heilman’s closest competitor, Heidi Shink, received 1,185 votes, or 28%. Larry Block received 637 votes and Cole Ettman received 384, according to the city.

The city still has to count mail-in votes and provisional ballots.

In March, Heilman came in fourth in the contest for three open seats on the five-person council. Newcomers Lauren Meister and current Mayor Lindsey Horvath were elected to the council. Meister had led a successful push for council term limits, which were approved by voters in 2013.

Heilman, who teaches at Southwestern Law School and the USC Gould School of Law, came up 69 votes short of keeping his seat.

Heilman was active in campaigning to make West Hollywood a city in the 1980s and has served seven one-year terms as mayor. Heilman helped establish the city’s rent stabilization ordinance and has been recognized for his work on behalf of people with AIDS.

Earlier this year, Heilman’s council aide, Fran Solomon, was involved in a controversy over the city's highly paid deputies.

Ian Owens, a deputy to Councilman John Duran, was accused of bugging Solomon's City Hall office. Owens allegedly suspected that Solomon was soliciting campaign contributions on city time for her boss prior to the March election. Owens sent snippets from Solomon's office telephone conversations to numerous email accounts in the city, including those of reporters. Owens has since sued the city.

Heilman has said he supports reforming the council deputy system -- in which the aides are paid between $99,838 and $137,487 annually, receive full benefits and even formed their own five-person union, the West Hollywood Council Deputies Assn.

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