Oceanside begins new year with empty mayor’s seat

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside begins the new year with a vacant mayor’s seat, after former Mayor Jim Wood handed in his resignation due to health reasons effective Jan. 1.

City Council had its first discussion on how to fill the position Jan. 10, with no strong direction from council on the next course of action.

Options are to appoint a mayor or call for an election to fill the mayor’s term, which runs through 2020.

The council has 60 days to decide. Within that timeline there is a Feb. 7 deadline to call for a June election. After that date, a November election can be called.

If a council member is appointed mayor that would leave an empty council seat and the need to appoint or hold an election to fill the then vacant seat.

Unlike the at-large mayor position, the council seat would go to a district vote when the term expires. All candidates running would need to live in the district.

More than a dozen speakers shared their views on how the position of mayor should be filled. An overwhelming number of those who spoke asked to have an election.

Speakers stressed it is an elected position and the voters’ right.

“The cost (of an election) is not the point,” Oceanside resident Lisa Hamilton said. “This is important. Protect the right to elect our mayor.”

Others said the remaining three years of the term is too long a time for an appointed mayor to fill the job.

Individual speakers suggested appointing Councilwoman Esther Sanchez because of her longevity on council, and Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery because of his service as deputy mayor.

Council explored several solutions. Councilman Jerry Kern said he was in favor of an appointment to save the city the cost of an election.

Sanchez suggested going with Wood’s prior written recommendation to appoint City Clerk Zack Beck as mayor. No action was taken to do so.

“He is the only person I would consider appointing to the position,” Sanchez said. “If we do not appoint Zack, I believe we ought to have an election.”

Council gave direction to request more community input. Councilman Jack Feller asked city staff to post a press release on the city webpage to prompt residents to weigh in on whether they prefer an appointment or election. The public notice also encouraged residents to attend the next council meeting and “make their case” if they are interested in being appointed as mayor.

A notice should be posted by Jan. 15.

“We need more than tonight to decide it,” Feller said. “I just want to know whether they (residents) want to appoint or not.”

Council considered implementing a formal application process for mayor candidates, but decided a simple notification is sufficient.

The council will meet Jan. 24, Feb. 7 and Feb. 28. A decision must be reached by Feb. 28. There is also the option of holding a special meeting within the 60-day timeline.

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