Bob Johnson was unanimously elected mayor by his Lodi City Council colleagues before a packed house at Carnegie Forum on Wednesday night. Johnson, a councilman since 2004 who also served for 10 months in 1998 to fill a council vacancy, assumed the role of mayor for the second time. He previously held the top position in 2007 and was a real estate appraiser in Lodi for 18 years.
The council was anything but unified when JoAnne Mounce was elected mayor pro tem by only a 3-2 vote. Johnson and Councilman Larry Hansen cast the dissenting votes. No one else was nominated for mayor pro tem.
After the meeting, Johnson, Hansen and Mounce declined to discuss the split vote.
“I voted no,” Hansen said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
Johnson added, “I’d rather not air dirty laundry in public.”
In addition to voting on who will lead the council, Hansen, outgoing Mayor Phil Katzakian and Alan Nakanishi were sworn into office. Hansen and Katzakian were re-elected in the Nov. 2 election, while Nakanishi returned to the council after six years in the state Assembly.
In his opening remarks after taking the mayor’s gavel, Johnson listed his top priorities for his one-year term as mayor:
- A “very serious discussion” on how the city should handle pension issues. It isn’t working the way it is, he said.
- Work diligently to attract job-creating businesses to Lodi. That includes considering financial incentives to attract businesses.
- Discuss whether the city should invest in hiring an economic development director. Johnson admitted he doesn’t know whether Lodi needs one or not, but there should be a serious discussion.
- Take care of existing businesses and encouraging them to remain in Lodi.
- Considering one or two town hall meetings to simply listen to whatever concerns residents have. Johnson suggested one meeting on the Eastside and one on the west side of town.
City Manager Rad Bartlam also presented plaques of appreciation to Katzakian for serving as mayor in 2009 and to Susan Hitchcock, who chose to retire from the council after 12 years. She also served 13 years on the Planning Commission.
Katzakian said he wasn’t sure a year ago whether he was ready to serve as mayor because there was a steep learning curve, but now he says he was glad he did.
Acknowledging that he needed a lot of help with mayoral duties at the beginning of his term a year ago, Katzakian said he received that help from Bartlam, former City Manager Blair King and City Clerk Randi Johl, along with other City Council and staff members.
Hitchcock noted that Lodi’s population was 36,928 when she joined the Planning Commission in 1982 and saw the city grow to 63,549 today. She served with five city managers and 11 other council members.
Hitchcock, who endured several contentious debates with her council colleagues during her three terms, said she believes in full disclosure, transparency and open debate.
“I believe debate is the foundation for democracy,” she said.
She urged the council to continue working toward a “community separator,” or greenbelt, to separate Lodi from Stockton.
“Thank you for allowing me to serve,” she concluded.
Her husband, Jerry Glenn, was in tears when he addressed the council about Hitchcock. He noted that she is a tree-hugger, cried when then-Councilman Keith Land tried to get Hitchcock censured in 2003 for disclosing information about a vote taken in closed session regarding groundwater contamination and cringed when the council voted against Hitchcock on issues that were important to her.
Later in the meeting, Hansen credited Hitchcock for saving the city millions of dollars by asking hard questions about the groundwater contamination issue and persuading the council to reverse its direction on the controversial case.
Glenn then announced that from now on, the first and third Wednesday of each month, when council meetings are held, will become their “date night.” He told Hitchcock from the podium that he already has plans for her on Dec. 15.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.