Finn takes helm as LAH mayor, offers to 'celebrate all we have in common'

Councilman Steve Finn became the new mayor of Los Altos Hills at the city council meeting held June 15. After much discussion, Councilwoman Toni Casey was named mayor pro tem.

The mayoral duties are for one-year terms and the selections are traditionally based on a rotating system. A lengthy discussion ensued at last week's meeting over the procedures for appointing this year's mayor pro tem.

According to Councilman Bob Johnson, the traditional, unwritten "rotating system" dictates that the councilmember who has not served as mayor for the longest period of time usually becomes the mayor pro tem.

This general rule, though, has a few exceptions. For instance, if there is a councilmember who has never had an opportunity to be mayor or mayor pro tem, then this individual would take precedence in becoming the mayor pro tem.

In light of this exception, Johnson nominated Councilwoman Emily Cheng as the mayor pro tem. Cheng was elected to the council in the last primary election, held in March, to serve the remaining term of longtime Councilman Bill Siegel, who had resigned last November. Since Cheng had not had an opportunity to be either mayor nor mayor pro tem, Johnson said the Council "should give Emily the honor and dignity of being mayor pro tem."

Because Cheng is up for reelection this coming November, objections were raised as to her becoming the mayor pro tem. If Cheng were not reelected, the office of mayor pro tem would be interrupted. Johnson said, "it is not complimentary to Emily to say she can't be mayor pro-tem because she must run for reelection."

When asked to comment on her nomination, Cheng said that she has "studied the situation carefully, and feel[s] that it's Toni's turn" to be mayor pro-tem. Cheng went on to decline the nomination.

Johnson was clearly displeased with the abrogation of the traditional methods. He noted that "both Toni and Steve have been beneficiaries of the rotating system" in the past. And that Johnson's "emphasis is on maintaining that system, not on any personal animosities." Councilwoman Elayne Dauber added that the "rotation [system] works and is important."

When asked about his thoughts on the rotational system after the council meeting, Johnson replied dryly, "it's dead and (we) were at the funeral."

But Finn, soon after becoming mayor, proposed to adjourn the meeting and "celebrate all we have in common." The meeting, though, did not adjourn.

Finn went on to name a number of goals for the coming year. These included renovating town hall, strengthening town management, building new sewers and pathways, and completing the town survey. These goals, according to Finn, could not be accomplished without the hiring of a new city manager, planning director and city engineer. He also emphasized the importance of objectivity, even application, and consistency in the staff's dealings with town residents.

Dauber pointed out that these were Finn's "personal goals," and would have to be discussed, since they were, "not necessarily the goals of the council."

In other action, the council also approved the town's operating budget for the fiscal year 2000-2001, totaling more than $6 million, representing a 17 percent increase over the 1999-2000 budget.

In addition, Robert Quinlan was announced as the town's new interim city manager. His post started on June 19. Quinlan served as the former Cupertino city manager for 18 years. He has also acted as interim city manager in other peninsula cities, including Campbell.

Other appointments included Eric Clow and Janet Vitu to the town planning commission and Karen Emerzian to the community relations committee. Five individuals, Karen Bergh, Mary Calderon, Shelley LeFevre, Valerie Metcalfe, and Valeri Stitt were appointed to the recreation and parks committee.

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