The City of Hanford swore in two new city council members and conducted a reorganization of the council at its regular city council meeting on December 6. In addition to swearing in Martin Devin and former council member Sue Sorenson, David Ayers was appointed as mayor and Sue Sorenson was appointed as vice-mayor.
The council itself elects fellow council members to these two positions.
Martin Devin won a surprise victory in Area C over incumbent Gary Pannett, who has served one term. Devin beat Pannett by seven points, or 257 votes. In Area B, Sue Sorenson beat out three other contenders to assume Russ Curry’s seat. Curry is moving to Nevada. Sorenson’s closest competitor was Glenda Dwyer, who lost by 311 votes or eight points.
Dwyer rose to speak during public comment to congratulate Sorenson and expressed her relief that the “Gang of Three” was broken up. She expressed hope that the council could now work better together. A small conservative group of Hanford residents perceived the “Gang of Three” as a coalition between Pannett, former vice-mayor Francisco Ramirez, and former mayor Justin Mendes.
According to the city charter, a reorganization of the council needs to take place every year at the first meeting in December. Attendance was standing-room only, but the selection of mayor and vice-mayor lacked the tension and accusations that flew throughout the meeting in 2015.
Mendes nominated council member David Ayers for mayor and no other nominations were brought forward. The vote was unanimous for Ayers’ appointment. Ayers then nominated Sorenson as the new vice-mayor. No other nominations were made and the vote for her appointment was also unanimous.
The new council members gave comments after their swearing in and reorganization. All expressed a desire to do the right thing for Hanford and roll up their sleeves and get down to work.
After the meeting Ramirez said he was “thrown aback” by Mendes’ nomination of Ayers. As the current vice-mayor, Ramirez, and much of the community, was expecting him to be the new mayor. The same sequence of events happened to Ayers in 2015. He was the heir apparent, but lost the post in a split 2-3 vote for Mendes.
“I’ve had so many calls this week from the community saying ‘It’s your time to shine and you are always out in the community.’ They thought I was a shoe-in.” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said about the new city council, “I hope the city is moving in the right direction and that they don’t fire the City Manager in six months.” According to a clause in the city code, a new city council has to give the current city manager six months before replacing him.
Dan Chin, who is rumored to have donated a significant amount of money in this election, might be interested in becoming the new city manager.