ESCONDIDO — On Dec. 12, City Council embarked on a new era, swearing in Mayor Paul McNamara and Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez to four-year terms and changing the balance of power from a 4-1 conservative majority to a 3-2 liberal majority.
McNamara won a competitive race against former Mayor Sam Abed, while Martinez won in a landslide against Ed Gallo. As is tradition in Escondido, the changing of the guard happens in the form of an Installation Ceremony, with members voted out or retiring having the chance to speak at the dais one final time before handing over the baton.
At the ceremony, both Abed and Gallo offered parting words before leaving center stage. Gallo read a note from a job manager he worked for as a young adult in New Jersey, while Abed discussed what he described as a burgeoning culture of political divisiveness brewing in the city.
“I am personally proud of my 26 years of public service to this city,” said Gallo, the fourth-longest-serving member of the City Council in its history as an incorporated entity. “I’m proud of being on this council, working together because we’ve been balancing budgets without using reserve funds, which is critical.”
Gallo also emphasized the state of the economy in Escondido in his parting statement.
“I’m proud to say that efforts at job creation in Escondido has had a profound result. Escondido used to have the lowest median income in North County,” Gallo said. “That is not the case and that is a direct result of this council’s attention to economic development and job creation.”
“I truly believed that every policy we implemented and every decision I made was in the best interest of the 155,000 citizens who live in this wonderful city,” Abed said. “I am also very proud of our accomplishments and the fundamental economic, financial, and positive image transformation we have achieved together. Today, Escondido is a cleaner, safer, more efficient, more desirable and more prosperous city.”
Abed also called for more amicable dialogue cutting across party lines in the months and years ahead within Escondido.
“Let’s commit to embrace all the values that unite us and bring us together as one country, one city, one community, one neighborhood and one family,” Abed said. “For America to remain an exceptional nation, we must commit to a more civil discourse, motivated by mutual respect — motivated by mutual respect, underscore that — and accommodation and compassion … Thank you Escondido for your support for the past 14 years. It has been the honor of my life to serve you.”
For their part, speaking for the first time as city officials, both McNamara and Martinez thanked those who brought them into office and conveyed, in broad strokes, their goals for the city.
“Public service is always difficult and I’d like to say a personal thank you, whether you agree with the individuals or not, to both Sam and Ed for their many years of public service to this city,” McNamara said. “I’d also like to thank all of the citizens and residents of this city who supported us and supported this change. It couldn’t have been done without you. It makes me feel really good that we’re building a sense of community and that we can work together. Obviously, we have a number of challenges and those challenges are not going to be solved by those sitting up here on the dais. It’s going to be solved by all of us working together.”
McNamara closed his speech by saying only two people believed he could win the mayoral race: him and his campaign manager, Nina Deerfield, who he thanked for her efforts during his run.
Martinez, who had many supports in the crowd, delivered her speech in both English and Spanish, noting that she normally does not write speeches down but did not want to forget to mention anyone in her remarks.
“We really embarked on a journey to unite our city as one Escondido,” Martinez said. “I really felt for a very long time like we weren’t treated as one Escondido and that is something that is really important to me. And so, I will ensure moving forward that we will work as one city. I want to make sure that all of my neighbors are heard, no matter what neighborhood you come from or where you were born and that no community gets left behind.”
The night ended with a mariachi band playing in front of the Escondido City Hall. Escondido’s City Council convenes again at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 16, 2019.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at email@example.com.