Big changes could be coming to the Davis City Council this spring, and they may not be simple ones to address.
With an election set for June 8, Mayor Ruth Asmundson recently announced she will not run for reelection. Citing high stress levels as one of her reasons for leaving, she has been to the hospital several times in the past few years to treat high blood pressure. Asmundson would like to focus on her family and furthering the city’s opportunities for bicycling, education and international relations.
In October, Councilmember Lamar Heystek announced he would not seek reelection in order to focus on his upcoming wedding and personal life. Councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Steve Souza are not up for reelection until 2012.
These circumstances would leave two vacancies on the five-member council. With Mayor Pro Tempore Don Saylor running unopposed for County Supervisor, however, he will likely be leaving City Council in 2011.
The person who receives the greatest number of votes in an election serves the first two years as mayor pro-tem and the next two years as mayor.
Saylor said this leaves the council in an interesting situation. Because of his possible departure he would only serve as mayor for less than a year, leaving his and the mayor pro tem’s positions open. City Council has not yet made a decision on how to solve this problem.
This is not the only drama that has come to City Council.
Local community activists Pam Nieberg, co-chairwoman of the local Sierra Club, and Tansey Thomas have started an online petition called “Draft Lamar.” The petition urges Heystek to reconsider his decision to leave office.
Thomas said Heystek has grown to be a model leader, and has been able to gain the respect of his fellow councilmembers through his articulate nature, thorough work and integrity.
“The general public is concerned about how leadership is handling this historic budget crisis and our failing institutions,” Thomas said. “[Heystek] has the courage to speak the truth and hold leadership accountable, including himself. This is something that is lacking on the national, state and even city level and something we don’t want to lose with Heystek leaving.”
In light of the petition, Heystek said he is weighing his options and plans on making a public announcement in the near future. He said he is flattered by the effort and does not want to take this demonstration of support lightly.
Heystek has until the nomination period ends on Mar. 12 to make his decision. If an incumbent does not file by that date, the end of the nomination period will be extended (for non-incumbents only) to Mar. 17.
Whether there are one or two vacancies this spring, there are other candidates who are running.
The first, UC Davis alumnus Sydney Vergis, has previously worked on city planning and policy analysis. Joe Krovoza attended Davis’ King Law School, and currently is directing development and outreach activities for the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center.
Last week, Davis High School Blue & White Foundation President Rochelle Swanson, announced her candidacy.
There has been recent conflict between councilmembers, most notably Mayor Asmundson’s panic attack during the Jan. 26 council meeting after a disagreement with councilmember Sue Greenwald.
Swanson said, if elected, she would be able to improve the situation through her previous experience fundraising, volunteering and professional consulting.
“I have great optimism in the power and commitment of community spirit in Davis,” Swanson said. “As a member of the City Council, I will respect diverse viewpoints within the council and our community, and work hard to find common ground. I will weigh all sides of every issue, and do my best to represent the base of citizenry across Davis.”
Heystek feels this election will change the dynamic of City Council.
“There are always changes when councilmembers leave because City Council becomes like a family,” Heystek said. “You form both professional and interpersonal relationships with these members. I really feel like over the past four years we’ve developed this dynamic and forged some productive changes.”
At press time there were 239 signatures on the draftlamar.com website, including the signatures of ASUCD President Jack Zwald and Vice President Previn Witana. For more information on the election visit cityofdavis.org/cmo/vote.cfm.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.