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City Council Fills Vacancy, Avoids Cost of Election : Politics: Under Anaheim law, elected leaders had until Saturday to select someone. If not, a citywide vote would have been required.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Planning Commissioner Tom Tait was unanimously selected Tuesday by the City Council as its fifth member, ending more than five weeks of tense political combat and a series of deadlocked votes.

The selection of Tait, 36, saves Anaheim the $100,000 it would have cost to hold a special election and spares the city a potentially divisive election campaign, which would have stretched through the spring.

“I’m extremely honored and excited,” Tait said in a telephone interview shortly after the vote. “I feel ready to get started. I believe strongly in community responsibility.”

Tait was nominated for the third time Tuesday by Councilman Bob Zemel. Last week, Zemel nominated Tait twice, but the planning commissioner only garnered two votes from the four council members.

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This time, it was a different story when Mayor Tom Daly, who had voted against Tait’s nomination last week, supported him. Councilman Frank Feldhaus also backed Tait.

The most surprising development of the night was the affirmative vote cast by Councilman Lou Lopez who had, until Tuesday, favored a special election and had voted against all previous nominees.

Lopez said he considered Tait an “independent with no political allegiances to anyone.”

Lopez previously had downplayed the cost of a special election but said he “came to realize what we could do with $100,000" after a budget workshop last Saturday.

Daly said a special election would have created “a sideshow” that the city does not need at a time when it faces major decisions in the coming months. The mayor also praised Tait as someone who “is fully prepared to tackle the issues we face.”

Tait, a resident of the city for seven years, has been a planning commissioner for the past two years. He is a member of the Anaheim Community Block Grant Committee and has previously served on the Anaheim Budget Advisory Commission.

He is president of Tait & Associates, an engineering firm in Orange, founded by his father. Tait and his wife, Julie, have four children.

He has a bachelor’s of science degree in finance from the University of Wyoming and has both a master’s in business and a law degree from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

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Tait’s selection also won approval from Shirley McCracken, who placed third in the Nov. 8 election and previously was a leading candidate to fill the vacancy. She had twice received two votes from council members, while a third abstained.

McCracken failed last week in an attempt to have a judge appoint her to the council. The Superior Court ruled that the City Council had made it clear that three votes were required.

“For the good of the city, they needed to make an appointment,” McCracken said Tuesday. “This is a very serious time for the city and six months of a political campaign would have caused a circus.”

Tait’s selection comes just in time. The council had until Saturday, 60 days after the vacancy was created, to name someone or, according to the City Charter, a special election would have been required. The election probably would not have taken place until June.

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The council vacancy was caused by a change in the City Charter, which altered the way the mayor is elected. In the past, mayoral candidates had to be sitting council members and served a two-year term. Beginning with November’s election, the mayor was elected at-large for a four-year term. When Daly was reelected in November for the mayoral post, he was forced to relinquish his council seat.


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