The Lodi City Council’s mayor selection took a controversial shift as former Mayor Pro Tempore JoAnne Mounce was passed over for the post.
The council’s vote has sparked commentary throughout town, as Lodians took to social media to vent their frustrations over the council’s decision to bypass Mounce.
According to councilman Doug Kuehne, the decision to vote in Mark Chandler over Mounce was a strategic choice for the leadership of the town. He said that decision stemmed from the direction Lodi is taking, and moving forward as it explores the possibility of becoming a tourist town.
“Lodi was named Wine Enthusiast's 2015 "Wine Region of the Year," said Kuehne.
Chandler has been instrumental in generating the publicity behind Lodi’s wine industry for the past 20 years; his presence in the community and on the council has led to the expansion of wine growers in the community.
“Since I first served the grape commission, I have seen the expansion of the wine industry go from eight wineries to 100,” said Chandler.
Chandler stated that the decision to nominate him as mayor was unexpected to him, but on hearing his nomination, he heard the call to action and accepted the nomination for mayor.
However, not all the council members were surprised by the decision to nominate someone other than Mounce on Monday evening.
“To be honest, I wasn’t surprised, but I did hope that we would continue with the rotation and vote JoAnne in as mayor,” said councilman Nakanishi who nominated Mounce.
Mounce also echoed the sentiment of having not been surprised by the decision of being passed over by the council.
“I knew what they were doing as soon as an I saw Bob Johnson,” said Mounce.
According to Mounce, she and Johnson have had a tenuous relationship since she was elected to city council in 2004.
Mounce believes that her outspoken nature and dedication to fight on behalf of her constituents has caused a rift between her and her fellow council members.
“I have emailed the council, and I rarely get a response from Kuehne and Johnson; and if I do it’s a simple response. Chandler and Nakanishi reply too, but Joanne gets things done,” said Sheri Didreckson, of Sheri’s Sonshine nutrition center.
Didreckson believes that the decision to name Chandler as the mayor was orchestrated by the council before the meeting even began.
“It was wired from the get-go, and when they passed her up, my jaw dropped. I was shocked, “ said Didreckson.
Lodi native and city council candidate Spencer Rhoads believes members of the community see Mounce as a vocal advocate for the community and an adversary to the political climate that clouds the council.
“She brings to light things that are kept in the dark,” said Rhoads.
The polarity at the meeting was obvious as Mounce left the meeting. She admits she had called Chandler an a—hole after he became the mayor and the two had an exchange before she left the building.
Mounce has even gone as far as creating a poll on her Facebook account asking her followers on social media “if she is justified in calling Chandler an a—hole,” and allowing people to respond yes or no to the poll.
Mounce stated that she left the building hastily Monday evening to check on her parents after allegedly hearing that Kuehne had threatened her father.
Kuehne denies the allegations as being a fabricated mischaracterization of what had transpired.
“Her parents had come up and called me a crook, to which I responded ‘thank you for your comments,’ and then they left,” said Kuehne.
Despite the turn of events, the question lingers of why Mounce was passed over. It has been asked if Mounce, who has served the City of Lodi as both a councilwoman and mayor is being targeted because she is the only woman that sits on the council.
Kuehne, who nominated Mounce as mayor pro tempore in 2017, was agape by the mention that gender would have had any significance in the decision for mayor.
“Absolutely not, this has nothing to do with gender. There are women who are more capable and better suited to be leaders. Gender was not a factor at all in the selection of mayor,” said Kuehne.
Both Nakanishi and Chandler echoed the sentiment that gender has never been an issue and is not an issue for the council.
For Chandler, his victory Monday evening has not been tainted by the shadow of controversy that has ensued since being elected.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Chandler.
Chandler says he refuses to allow the commentary from community members derail his focus of looking toward Lodi’s future. He is elated by the success of Adam Mettler, who was named Winemaker of the Year. Chandler sees Mettler's award as a good footing to secure Lodi’s future and garner more publicity for the town.
For Mounce, she is looking to follow the advice her grandmother gave her, and continue to make a difference in her own backyard.
“I am more disappointed for my citizens than anything,” said Mounce.
The council is committed to working together toward ensuring Lodi's future and the future of its residents.
“We are five different people who vote independently, but at the end of the day we come together for the community and the town, ” said Nakanishi.