The Murrieta City Council selected a new mayor and new mayor pro tem despite disagreements on term limits at its annual changing of the guard, Dec. 6.
Jonathan Ingram will replace Rick Gibbs as mayor, after some disagreement among the council over who would fill the position of mayor pro tem. It ultimately went to Alan Long, who served as mayor in 2014.
Long, an Anaheim firefighter, was absent from the meeting, battling fires elsewhere in California at the time, Gibbs said.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of Murrieta, and I want to thank the folks who made it easy for me to be mayor this year,” Gibbs said after the changeover was conducted.
“That would be Rick Dudley, Kim Summers, Ivan Holler and all of the phenomenal department heads and my colleagues,” he said, referring to the former and current city managers, as well as the assistant city manager.
Ingram, too, said it was an honor to serve as mayor.
“It’s humbling to sit in the center chair, and I think it’s difficult,” he said. “I want to take the opportunity to thank my dear friend and colleague Rick Gibbs. You’ve been a great mentor, a good friend, and I’ve learned so much from you in the last three years. And the same with councilmembers Lane and Long and Mr. Seyarto.”
Councilman Randon Lane initially nominated fellow Councilman Kelly Seyarto as mayor pro tem.
“Mr. Seyarto is certainly qualified to be the mayor,” Gibbs said to him. “But he does not have a year on council since the last 10 years. When you look at the rotation, Long should be next in the rotation.”
Seyarto was on the council from 1997 to 2006 and ran again in 2016.
Long’s term expires in 2018. In 2010, the same year Long was elected to the council, Murrieta voters approved a ballot measure limiting councilmembers to two terms.
“I don’t want to have a mayor pro-tem who is not going to be serving as mayor the next year,” Seyarto said.
However, Gibbs said that the council’s vote in August to move to district elections restarts the term limits. Seyarto disagreed.
“I don’t know that we had that discussion, because I don’t know that that made our term limits go away,” he said. “I can count to eight. I don’t know if anybody else on the dais is willing to count to eight, but I certainly can, and the people of Murrieta chose us to run for two terms maximum, no matter what we’re doing.”
City Attorney Leslie Devaney weighed in.
“Well, I think this might be the difference between a legal discussion and a policy discussion, but the legal opinion is that once you go to district terms, it starts over under the term limits,” she said to the council members.
Lane said he was not trying to bypass Long, but his understanding of the rotation system was that Seyarto was next in line in the rotation. He also pointed out that Seyarto had in fact served for a year and was eligible to be mayor pro tem, as he took office in December 2016.
The title of mayor pro tem is supposed to go to the most senior council member who has not previously served in the position, Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Ransom said.
“In reading it, it could be interpreted that it would be Councilman Long, based on that,” she said.
Seyarto acquiesced, though, and Lane instead nominated Long to the position.
“It’s your guys’ rotation,” Seyarto said. “You know what, we didn’t have this kind of a rotation thing back in the day, so in order to facilitate moving this meeting along, it’s not that big a deal, you guys.”