After interviewing 15 candidates for one open seat on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council — considering newcomers and longtime commissioners, attorneys and business owners, pilots and volunteers — the council selected Greg Brown, a former city councilman and mayor, to rejoin the dais. He will fill the seat left vacant by the unexpected May 16 death of Councilman Dave Spence.
Brown was attending a family reunion at a remote Utah ranch and had to conduct his candidate interview Tuesday via a conference call. He is expected to be sworn in at the council's next regular meeting on July 18.
Council members assured the public and the 14 candidates not chosen (Public Works and Traffic Commissioner Chuck Gelhaar withdrew from consideration Monday) their choice was not a foregone conclusion, but rather based on a desire to seat someone who could "hit the ground running."
"Greg has his fingerprints on a lot of progress and a lot of things that have gone on in the city," said Mayor Mike Davitt. "He's done a good job, and I think he's going to serve and be supportive of the council."
Interviews were conducted in two special meetings held Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. City Manager Mark Alexander explained council members had a choice to either appoint one candidate or to call for a special election, to be held in November.
After some discussion on both sides of the issue, the council decided to move forward with its decision to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next general municipal election in March 2019. At that election, Brown's appointed seat will be up for a two-year period (the remainder of Spence's term), while three council seats belonging to Davitt, Mayor Pro Tem Terry Walker and Councilman Len Pieroni will be up for four-year terms.
Brown, a former planning commissioner, served on the City Council from 2003 to 2011 and was appointed mayor for a one-year period in 2006. When he announced his plans to retire to the Valley Sun in November of 2010, he said many of the goals set during his two terms in office had been accomplished and that he wanted to make room for "new blood."
Among the council's achievements, Brown named improved controls over developments, increased recreational facilities through joint-use agreements with La Cañada Unified School District, development of La Cañada's Town Center, new public parks, lower crime rates, the installation of sewers north of Foothill Boulevard and completion of the the city's trails system.
In his interview Tuesday, Brown said he hoped his experience might be useful to council members as they looked to fill the vacancy left by Spence.
"There's value that comes from having been elected and having served," Brown said. "And part of the issue here, too, is this is a short-term period, so just getting up to speed and being able to immediately contribute, I think, is helpful. I can bring some immediate usefulness, if you will, to the council rather than just a learning curve."
Walker joined fellow council members in thanking all applicants for their desire to serve and encouraging them to continue their civic engagement. Still, she said, Brown's civic resume set him apart from other candidates.
"I really appreciate fresh views and new faces and new perspectives. And it was very interesting during the interview process hearing the new ideas and the freshness in a lot of the less mature [candidates] that came forward," she said. "I think it could be really energizing for a council. [But] at this time, for this position, I think experience matters."
Applicant Keith Eich, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Spence and fellow incumbent Jon Curtis in March, attended Tuesday's announcement. Applicant and Planning Commission Chair Rick Gunter was also present for the council's decision.
Both said they were still interested in pursuing a council seat in the future.
"I'm not going anywhere," said Gunter, whose term on the commission expires in April 2018. "I've been called to serve as long as I can remember, and I feel like the next step for me is to contribute at the council level."