After a contentious discussion lasting nearly 20 minutes Tuesday night, the five-member Santa Clarita City Council voted 3-2 to appoint Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean the city’s new mayor, with outgoing Mayor Laurene Weste casting the deciding vote.
Councilmember Cameron Smyth was unanimously elected Mayor Pro-Tem in a special meeting in Council Chambers at City Hall that ran overtime. McLean’s and Smyth’s one-year terms began with the Council’s regular meeting that followed.
The mayoral vote followed the joyful swearing in of three re-elected Santa Clarita City Council members — Weste, McLean and Councilman Bill Miranda — and glowing tributes from more than a dozen officials and community members honoring Weste and highlighting her 2018 term.
The City Council’s five members have traditionally rotated the mayor and mayor pro-tem posts each year, with the mayor pro-tem routinely elected mayor the next year.
Councilmember Bob Kellar broke with that tradition Tuesday night by nominating Smyth for mayor instead of McLean, saying it was “in the best interests on the city.”
Weste then seconded Smyth’s nomination.
Spectators in the packed Council Chambers reacted with stunned silence as McLean questioned Kellar’s move and motive, and whether he had a personal vendetta against her.
McLean then nominated herself, which Councilman Bill Miranda seconded.
Smyth called for clarification and further discussion before the vote continued.
Under the Council’s procedural rules, City Attorney Joe Montes said, the second nomination — McLean’s — would be the first to be voted upon.
The vote began with Miranda, who voted yes for McLean.
Smyth, after a long pause, said he would abstain. Montes noted that under the Council’s rules, an abstention was a yes vote.
Clearly not pleased, Smyth changed his vote to no.
“I’m not going to vote against myself — that’s the first rule in politics,” Smyth said.
McLean, who felt blindsided — though Kellar said he had left her a voicemail earlier Tuesday informing her of his plan — voted yes for herself.
Kellar voted no, leaving the vote tied at 2-2 for McLean and Smyth, with Weste yet to cast hers.
“Thanks, guys,” Weste said, combining sarcasm and humor.
Then Weste offered a solution to the deadlock: “If Councilman Smyth would be okay with Marsha moving forward, I would be proud to nominate him as Mayor Pro-Tem,” she said. “I’ll vote ‘aye’ (for McLean) because I’m not going to have you fighting,” Weste said.
After the 3-2 vote in McLean’s favor, Smyth vented his displeasure, saying what transpired makes “the city look very unprofessional.”
“I’m not going to vote against myself, and now I’m on the record of voting ‘no,’” he said. “If you (Weste) weren’t going to vote for me, you should have never seconded the motion. The same thing to you, Bill. … I have no problem with Marsha being the mayor at all, but you have both gone against what you had said in your previous comments and now I’m the one voting ‘no.'”
The vote for Smyth’s appointment as Mayor Pro-Tem followed and was unanimous. Miranda, who was expected to be named Mayor Pro-Tem, said he was a “team player” and was okay with how the vote turned out, though he said he thought a 4-1 vote for mayor was important for council unity.
McLean’s swearing-in as mayor followed as she took the oath of office surrounded by family, friends and supporters. It’s her fourth stint as mayor, following previous one-year terms in 2007, 2011 and 2015. She was elected to the City Council in 2002.
McLean said she had prepared an acceptance speech, but kept her remarks brief, committing to do her best and to provide equal representation for each of the Santa Clarita communities of Saugus, Newhall, Canyon Country and Valencia.
“I’m very proud to be acting as your Mayor again in 2019 and I will do the very best job that I can,” McLean said. “I will continue to make you all proud of the city.”
Kellar then asked for the floor: “I congratulate Marsha,” he said.
“And Marsha, I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to support you and make it a very fine year, not only for you but (also) for the citizens here in Santa Clarita,” Kellar said.