Town Council president takes on title of mayor

LA CRESCENTA — The unincorporated portion of La Crescenta, as of Thursday, has a new mayor.

In fact, the new mayor is already the elected leader of the Crescenta Valley Town Council.

But as a means to give the group more political traction and increased name recognition, the council opted at its Thursday executive committee meeting to elevate the title of its president, Grace Andrus, to mayor.

The move takes advantage of a clause in the council’s bylaws that gives authority to the council president to choose his or her title, though Andrus said the change was first suggested and then unopposed by other council members.

“When they all made their points and no one opposed it . . . I did concede to honor the wishes of the council and to take that title,” Andrus said.

The clause was established in 2003 by former Town Council President Andrew Adelman, who argued that the mayoral title, which he later assumed, would garner more respect for the all-volunteer council in the community, Councilwoman Danette Erickson said. Adelman’s successor, Clair Rawlins, later dropped the title, as did all following council presidents, she said.

Andrus, who was reappointed president by the council in December, echoed Adelman’s reported intentions, saying her new title will give the council more political currency to leverage the community’s interest with higher-ups.

“The council felt we needed a little more teeth when dealing with other state, federal and community officials,” she said.

But while unopposed by the council, news of the decision rattled some members of the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce, who said the name recognition of its board-appointed “honorary mayor” could be jeopardized.

The chamber’s honorary mayor supports the local business community by leading ribbon-cutting ceremonies and advising new chamber members, said current honorary mayor Leslie Lesh, the owner of Leo’s All-Star Sports Bar & Grill.

“It can be confusing if the community doesn’t know the difference between what the Town Council does and what the Chamber of Commerce does,” Lesh said. “. . . I personally don’t have a problem with sharing that title as long as the community recognizes the Town Council as representing the individuals as I represent the businesses.”

When Adelman took the mayoral title in 2003, it sparked some enmity between the chamber and council, said Rick Dinger, a member of the chamber’s board of directors, who was honorary mayor at the time.

“I just see it as something that’s going to cause hard feelings and irritation, so it’s something I don’t support, and I didn’t the first time they did it,” Dinger said.

Wary that adopting the mayor title again could cause a rift with the chamber, the council consulted with chamber president Howard Hakes, who supported the decision, before voting Thursday, Andrus said.

“I would say the Town Council and the chamber have a very good relationship, and we talked about it,” Hakes said. “I can speak as president of the chamber that I don’t think it will create a problem. We have always had an honorary mayor that is there to represent the city at events at things in town. I look at Grace’s role as mayor as being more of a political role.”

Most, if not all, local governmental bodies in unincorporated Los Angeles County do not have mayors — they go by council “president” or “chairman” in most communities — but there’s nothing stopping the Crescenta Valley Town Council from doing so, said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

“Every town council has very unique needs based on their community, and in respect to the needs of their community, if they need to address a state, county or federal official, and if that’s within the realm of their duties, they have a right to express themselves and the viewpoint for their community,” Bell said. “And they have the liberty to do that, and we support that freedom.”

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