In a surprise 4-1 vote, Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce was elected to serve a second term as mayor in front of her family and friends Wednesday night. Outgoing Mayor Bob Johnson was the only dissenting vote.
After the meeting, Mounce said she did not think she would get the three votes needed to be elected, and she was surprised with the outcome.
“In my heart of hearts, I knew it would go the other way, and I was OK with that. Your voice matters no matter where you sit, but I’m honored that my fellow council members trust me to run their meetings,” she said.
Councilman Alan Nakanishi was also unanimously elected vice mayor.
When City Clerk Randi Johl asked for nominations for the mayor position, there was a long pause of silence before Nakanishi nominated Mounce. Councilman Larry Hansen seconded the nomination.
Mounce looked surprised after the vote and then ceremoniously sat in the mayor’s chair. She finished the meeting without any public comment on her election.
After the meeting, Mounce said she expected no one to even second Nakanishi’s nomination.
In Lodi, the mayor position almost always rotates among the council members, and the vice mayor usually is elected mayor. But it was unclear how the vote would turn out because Hansen and Johnson voted against her appointment to the vice mayor position in 2010.
Mounce last served as mayor in 2008.
After the meeting, Hansen said it was really difficult in 2003 when then-vice mayor Emily Howard was passed over for mayor and Hansen was elected to another term.
He said his vote for Mounce on Wednesday was a personal choice.
“Even though I have concerns or disagreements with her, I think it’s just better if everyone gets their chance,” Hansen said.
Right after the meeting ended, Mounce went up to Hansen, shook his hand and thanked him.
Councilman Phil Katzakian voted for Mounce in 2010, but often votes with Johnson and Hansen. He also said everybody should get their turn.
“It should follow in order unless there is a horrendous reason why someone shouldn’t get elected. It makes life easier,” he said.
Council members are already busy enough, Katzakian said, without having personal issues.
“I’ve had experience on boards and commissions, and you basically feel like you are a volunteer anyways. It’s no fun if there is any animosity,” he said.
Nakanishi said it is an honor to serve as vice mayor and plans to work with Mounce on making the city safer.
“I’m glad she got the mayorship because it makes it more cohesive,” he said.
Johnson did not return a call for comment on Mounce’s election after the meeting.
At the meeting, Johnson received a plaque from City Manager Rad Bartlam honoring his time as mayor. Bartlam pointed out that this year the council had 23 regularly scheduled meetings, 36 shirtsleeves on Tuesday mornings, seven special meetings and 22 closed sessions.
“That’s a lot of time that we get to spend together. On behalf of the staff, we’d like to thank you again for your attentiveness to the community,” Bartlam said.
Johnson thanked the council and his wife, Carolyn, for her support.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ simply to the citizens of Lodi for letting me do this. I want to thank the city staff. They work very hard. As the economy becomes less solvent, they are working harder and longer with less resources,” he said.
As the new mayor, Mounce said she plans to work with Police Chief Mark Helms to find a solution to the gang problem. She also wants to solicit more community input and spark enthusiasm for the Grape Bowl, because the city has invested so much money into it.
She also plans to work with the San Joaquin Board of Supervisors to establish a greenbelt to separate Lodi and Stockton.
While Mounce did not make a speech after her election, she did thank her family and supporters earlier in the meeting for helping her during her fight against lung cancer earlier this year. She is now cancer-free.
She also said she hopes her involvement on the council would make her grandmother proud. She remembered as a child watching her grandmother cook and feed the homeless in Lodi.
“My grandmother used to say, ‘You can’t save the world, JoAnne, but you can make a difference in our city.’ ... If she was still with us, I would like to hope that she would believe in some small way that I have helped many people in my life and learned well from her,” Mounce said.