Making history: Los Altos elects three women to city council

Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Los Altos City Council candidate Jan Pepper, left in white, checks an iPad as results roll in on Election Day. Pepper was the top vote-getter in council election history.

After months of debating at forums, knocking on doors to speak to residents and distributing lawn signs, the 2012 Los Altos City Council election took on a congratulatory tone Nov. 7.

Los Altos residents went to the polls Nov. 6, re-electing incumbent Megan Satterlee and selecting council newcomers Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper to represent them for the next four years. The candidates will join Mayor Val Carpenter and Councilman Jarrett Fishpaw on the dais at the Dec. 4 city council meeting. Pepper and Bruins replace termed-out Councilmen Ron Packard and David Casas.

“I congratulate former Mayor Megan Satterlee on her re-election and look forward to getting to know councilmembers-elect Jan Pepper and Jeannie Bruins,” Carpenter said in a statement released to the Town Crier, “and to working with them as well as Mayor Pro Tem Jarrett Fishpaw and Councilwoman Satterlee on behalf of the entire Los Altos community during my last two years on the council.”

According to Los Altos City Clerk Jon Maginot, the occasion marks the first time in the city’s history that four women will serve together on the council.

“The city of Los Altos will be well served with the addition of Jan Pepper and Jeannie Bruins to the City Council,” Packard wrote in a statement to the Town Crier. “Megan’s re-election makes eminent sense. By way of trivia, when I was first elected, the entire council were all men. Now it will be all women except for Jarrett. Good turn for the better, and another great council.”

A new council composition

Just one day after being elected, the council’s soon-to-be members shifted their sights from campaigning to envisioning how the council’s mix of new and experienced members will work together.

“I’m excited about the mix we have,” said Bruins, who received 5,310 votes, placing her third among the field of six candidates. “There are a lot of good things coming. I’m excited to work with Jarrett and Val. I hope we can come together as a team and appreciate each other’s strengths.”

Pepper agreed, noting that the council will find a way to collaborate and emphasize each member’s strengths.

“I think it’ll be great,” said Pepper, the top voter-getter in the city’s history with 8,837 votes. “We will figure out how to work together and do some great things for Los Altos.”

Satterlee, meanwhile, noted that the engineering backgrounds of Bruins and Pepper will “bring a richness to the discussions that will continue to bring us forward in positive ways.”

Pepper said she has several goals while serving on the council, including working to increase downtown vibrancy “and trying to get businesses downtown that people want.”

Pepper also pointed to re-examining the city’s Civic Center Master Plan “in an integrated fashion,” emphasizing ways to establish connectivity between the proposed civic center and the downtown area. Among other things, Pepper noted that she wants to boost community outreach and work toward Los Altos being “a leader in environmental sustainability.”

Bruins, a former Los Altos Planning Commissioner, said one of her goals would include tackling the thorny issue of pension reform, a goal she shares with Satterlee.

“Megan is going to bring the strength of experience,” Bruins said. “Hopefully that will continue and it will help us in areas like pension reform and some of the machinations that you have to be attuned to. Those are things where Megan will bring continuity to help focus on those issues.”

Satterlee said she would make pension reform a priority in her second term.

“Pension reform continues to be big,” Satterlee added. “We have the opportunity to move forward with some of the tools we have, but we also need more tools from the state.”

Beyond that, Bruins said she sees a similar approach in the way all three women solve issues.

“I can go into problem-solving mode, but I also bring the ability to vision the possibilities,” she said. “The thing I’m going to bring is my experience as an engineer, and that’s something common among the three of us. We’re all analytical.”

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