ENCINITAS — A council meeting to elect the mayor for a one-year term ended in a twist — Mayor Teresa Barth and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar will each take the position for six months.
This was the last time a council majority voted on who gets the mayor nod. Proposition K passed in the last election, meaning Encinitas residents will elect a mayor for a two-year term next November.
Before the council vote, Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said whoever is chosen as mayor at Tuesday’s meeting would likely have an advantage over other candidates going into the 2014 election.
“The decision tonight, I believe, extends beyond appointing the mayor for the next year,” Gaspar said. “It extends into the 2014 election, whether we want to admit the elephant in the room or not. To me, we have the ability as leaders to really take the politics out of that decision and do what’s right for the community.”
Gaspar, whose council term ends next year, said she hasn’t determined if she’s going to run for mayor. Because she might enter the race, she declined to be nominated for the 12-month position.
“Anyone who is selected tonight should make a similar pledge — if they have not made that decision, they should not serve the city as mayor,” Gaspar said.
Barth, whose council seat is also up in 2014, said she too has yet to decide if she’ll run for mayor. She agreed that the candidate with the mayor title would have the edge in the election.
The other council members said they would not vie for mayor.
Councilman Mark Muir then made a motion to divide the time as mayor between Gaspar and Barth.
“I think they would both do a great job,” Muir said.
Gaspar said Muir’s motion “levels the playing field.” Should she and Barth both run for mayor in 2014, they could both claim to have held the position during the election year, Gaspar said.
The decision to split the mayor term, which passed unanimously, came after a handful of failed motions. One included delaying the vote for six months. Eventually, the council agreed that choosing a mayor would only become more difficult as the election approached.
Another motion entailed Councilman Tony Kranz serving the full year as mayor; however, he declined consideration.
Barth, who was elected mayor last December, said the deliberation was a testament to open government.
“Boy, if we could have all gone out to lunch and hashed this out beforehand, you guys wouldn’t be watching this,” Barth said after 30 minutes of council discussion on the matter, getting a chuckle from the audience. “This is open government — warts and all.”
She added that the council arrived at a good compromise and later volunteered to serve the first six months.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said she appreciated Gaspar and Barth being open about potentially running for mayor.
“That’s the kind of atmosphere we’ve created and want to maintain here,” Shaffer said.
In similar fashion, the City Council also agreed to divide the deputy mayor position. Muir will take the role first, followed by Kranz in six months.