The revolving door at Lindsay City Hall continues to spin.
The beleaguered Citrus Belt city has a new mayor—needed after the abrupt departure of the old one—but the City Council is still short one member and applications are being taken for a finance director for the second time this year.
Kimball Takes Charge
Just two weeks after former mayor Ramona Villarreal-Padilla ended the October 11 Council meeting with a surprise resignation, the remaining council members have regrouped to appoint Pam Kimball to take control of the gavel as the city heads into what should be better days. Kimball, a longtime member of the Council, took the position with a unanimous decision of her peers.
In typical Lindsay fashion, however, a little rearranging was in order before the Council could move on.
“Do I have to move my seat?” a somewhat bemused Kimball asked before settling in the center chair.
Brian Watson, the Council’s newest member, appointed last month, also changed seats.
“I’d feel a little more comfortable on the end,” he joked. “In the middle is a little more dangerous.”
A weary but businesslike Kimball then got on with the next task at hand, the Council’s selection of her mayor pro-tem.
“Well, I’m honored if a little nervous. I’ll do my best,” she said. “And, I’ll do my best by moving right along.”
Back to Business
Until the recent resignation of Steve Mecum, the Lindsay City Council often found itself splitting its decisions after contentious debate. That wasn’t the case as the Council swiftly voted 4-0 to make Danny Salinas the new mayor pro-tem. He replaces Sanchez, who will not seek reelection in the November 8 voting.
There was a bit of hesitation, however, as the Council considered waiting until after the election to select the mayor pro-tem.
“So we’ve never really had this situation before where we’ve changed out the mayor before the term is out,” Kimball said. “It’ll be up to this council to decide what to do tonight.”
The decision was to move forward now.
Sanchez, Mecum and Villarreal-Padilla were all implicated in a scheme to remove the city’s former manager.
A onetime Lindsay police officer who recently settled a wrongful termination suit with the city out of court claimed the three asked him to file the suit to discredit the former city manager.
That issue, however, has not been cited in any of the trio’s departures.
Mecum has already been replaced by Wilson, who was appointed to the Council in September by the remaining members, and only a single candidate filed for the open seat left vacant by Sanchez’s decision not to run. Laura Soria Cortes will replace Sanchez following the November 8 vote.
When Cortes takes her seat after the election results are certified, she may make the Council whole again.
A replacement for the city’s former mayor could be appointed as early as the next council meeting, also scheduled for November 8.
Would-be city leaders had 15 working days to submit their letters of interest in replacing Villarreal-Padilla.
That period closed November 1. If no qualified applicants came forward, the Council will have to find a willing participant.
Discussing the appointment is on the November 8 agenda.
Moving Right Along
No matter where they find their candidate, the Council must make its decision on a replacement member no later than 30 calendar days after officially accepting those applications. Yet, there was a moment’s hesitation as they considered their next move. It was spent wondering if Cortes should be included in the decision-making.
“The interesting thing in here is we have an election in the meantime,” Kimball said, “and when will that election be certified?”
After learning certification could take as long as a month, the Council opted not to wait.
“Let’s get this city going again,” Salinas said.
Minding the Money
Earlier in the year, Lindsay hired a new finance director to replace Tamera Larkin, who retired in May. Things seemed to be going well until last month, when City Hall and the new money manager parted ways. Now, Lindsay is taking applications again.
A job description is available at the city’s website, lindsay.ca.us, and the position pays between $68,000 and $91,000 a year, depending on experience. The city manager is hoping to find someone local to fill the role.
“It’s a good salary for Tulare County,” said Lindsay City Manager Bill Zigler. “We know there are people here who can do this. We just need help getting the word out to move the city and the Council and the organization to the next level.”