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In The News

Ira to repeat stint as Redwood City mayor
Council swears in Gee, Seybert as first new members in five years

By Shaun Bishop

The Daily News, 12/08/09

Redwood City’s city council handed Jeff Ira a familiar title Monday — mayor.

The council chose Ira as the city’s leader Monday night at a meeting that also featured the swearing in of Jeff Gee and John Seybert, the council’s first new members in five years.

Ira, who served as mayor in 2004 and 2005, called on residents to pitch in to help maintain the city’s quality of life at a time of budget difficulties and other challenges.

“It’s a time for Redwood City to ask, ‘What you can do for Redwood City?,’” Ira, 54, told a standing-room-only crowd in the city council chambers. “The city can’t provide everything, the city can’t do everything. If we want to make this a great community together, we’re all going to have to work together.”

There was an air of suspense around who would get the job of mayor — who represents the city at events and runs council meetings but has no extra voting power — because sitting Vice Mayor Diane Howard, who is termed out, stepped down Monday. Traditionally, the vice mayor rotates into the mayor’s spot.

But the transfer of responsibility was uncontroversial as the council unanimously voted to name Ira mayor after Council Member Alicia Aguirre nominated him. Aguirre was then unanimously named vice mayor. Before his speech, Ira took the oath of office to start his fourth and final term as a city council member. He was re-elected on Nov. 3 as Seybert and Gee, both former planning commissioners, won their first terms.

The entire council will face decisions on a number of major issues in the coming years, most notably a controversial application to build as many as 25,000 homes on 1,436 acres of salt flats owned by Cargill.

Seybert, director of operations for a local church, pledged to stay in touch with residents on “the issues that are important to our community.

“The bottom line for me is eventually passing on to future leadership a city that is better than it is tonight,” Seybert told the audience.

Gee, an architect, rattled off other issues the council will have to wrestle with — the future of the Fox Theatre, which was sold at a foreclosure auction; complaints about parking meters; rebuilding the city’s levees.

“Those are the opportunities we have in front of us, because we get to decide,” Gee said. “And it’s not just the seven of us up here, it’s all of us in the community. We get to decide together.”

The council also said a final goodbye to colleagues Howard and Jim Hartnett, who stepped down after 15 years each on the dais.

“It’s overwhelming,” Howard said after the meeting. “I am so proud and honored that I had the privilege of serving the people of Redwood City.”

Hartnett said after the meeting that he appreciated the opportunities Redwood City gave him growing up. “My service has always been about trying to promote an opportunity for everyone in the community to live better.”

 

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