OCEANSIDE — Mayor Jim Wood handed in a letter of resignation effective Jan. 1, 2018.
In part, the letter said, “My sincere hope was to continue my current term in office, however, I now need to focus on my health full time.”
Wood suffered a stroke in May and took an extended excused absence from office to recover. He returned to lead the Dec. 6 council meeting. At that time, city staff said Wood would continue to serve as mayor though the end of his term in 2020.
Councilman Jerry Kern said he saw the resignation coming after witnessing how visibly demanding the last council meeting was on the mayor.
“He wanted to finish his term,” Kern said, adding that it became too difficult. “Fate and health does that to you.”
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery said he breathed a sigh of relief when the mayor handed in his resignation to focus on his health. Lowery said the schedule of filling in for the mayor at public appearances and city and county meetings is nonstop.
“No one will be able to do as much as he had been doing,” Lowery said. “It’s a tough decision for him after working 40 (plus) years for the city. He made the right choice to take care of himself.”
Councilman Jack Feller said his prayers are with the mayor and his family. He credits the mayor for doing the right thing for his health and his family’s peace of mind.
In addition to his resignation the mayor sent a letter to fellow council members on Dec. 12 recommending City Clerk Zack Beck or former City Manager Peter Weiss be appointed as mayor to save the city the cost of an election or special election.
Beck said he is honored to serve the city in any needed capacity. “I am truly humbled by Mayor Wood’s endorsement,” Beck said.
Council members were split on believing the current four-person council could agree on an appointment.
Feller and Lowery said an appointment to mayor may be possible.
Lowery said it would behoove the council to appoint a mayor from current council members, and appoint a qualified candidate to the then-vacant council seat.
Kern said the best bet is for a June election. “All City Council members feel they should be appointed mayor, it would be difficult to get three votes,” he said of appointing a council member to the mayor’s seat.
Everyone was in agreement that the process going forward must be transparent.
“It has to be transparent,” Kern said. “Whoever we appoint will be mayor until 2020.”
Moving forward a 60-day clock will start ticking after the first of the year for council to make an appointment or call for an election.
The mayor is not expected to attend the Dec. 20 council meeting. His aide Debbie Walker Mikulay said he has pulled items related to his resignation from the agenda.
Council discussions on next steps will likely begin at the following meeting Jan. 10, 2018, after the mayor’s seat becomes vacant.
The council must decide on holding an election by Feb. 7, 2018, to make the June ballot. Otherwise a more expensive special election could be called or the vote could be put off until November.
If an election is delayed until November newly formed districts would be in effect.
A full five-person council is desirable for upcoming city decisions on medical marijuana cultivation and dispensaries, renovations to Coast Highway and a proposed half-cent sales tax.