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After a heated debate that pitted much of the city council against one another, Marsha McLean was sworn in as mayor of Santa Clarita on Tuesday night during the council’s final meeting of the calendar year.

McLean — who nominated herself for the position — emerged victorious in a 3-2 vote that featured a rare display of divisiveness from the council and was at times perforated by personal animus.

Cameron Smyth was selected to serve as Mayor Pro Tem.

The drama began when Kellar opened the meeting by nominating Smyth for mayor, a position he last held in 2017. Incumbent Mayor Laurene Weste seconded Kellar’s motion. The move came as a surprise to McLean, who as the incumbent mayor pro tem was poised to assume the mayoral role. She had previously served in such capacity in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

“I think the community would be better served to have Cameron Smyth as our mayor, and that’s why I nominated him,” Kellar said before the vote.   

McLean admonished Kellar’s motion to nominate Smyth with a salvo of accusations and summarily nominated herself for the position.

“The 25,000 people who voted for me would disagree,” she said, in direct rebuke of Kellar. “I see no reason other than personal vendetta that I should not continue (from pro tem) onto mayor.”

The dual nominations meant that the council would be forced to vote on both motions. Smyth requested that the election be a result of a consensus, rather than a fractured voted — a sentiment Councilman Bill Miranda echoed in proclaiming that he would only vote for the candidate whom he believed could earn at least four of the five votes.

While the council debated the merits of both prospective candidates, McLean continued to ascribe personal motives to Smyth’s nomination.

“You’ve tried to knock me off this council, and as a strong woman, I truly resent what you’ve done tonight,” she said to her fellow councilmembers. “I’m sorry I had to nominate myself. It’s a shock, it’s a surprise, it’s under-served, it’s unmerited and it’s rude.”

Weste described herself as “very uncomfortable” with the situation that was transpiring and warned that that further contention could lead to “irreparable damage” to the council.

The council then took to voting, first on McLean’s substitute measure to render herself mayor.

Miranda, Weste and McLean all voted in the affirmative, giving McLean the majority vote necessary to claim the title of mayor. Smyth and Kellar both dissented; while Smyth initially voted to abstain, he quickly changed his vote to a ‘no’ after being informed by the city attorney that an abstention would count as a ‘yes.’

Smyth derided Miranda and Weste for placing him into a position that he believed to be a Gordian Knot of self-interests. He chastised Miranda for violating his imperative concerning the four vote threshold and Weste for seconding his nomination only to vote in favor of McLean.

“You say you don’t want people to be divisive, and what you did was extremely divisive,” Smyth said to Weste.  “To put me in that position of being nominated, and of course I’m not going to vote against myself, and so now I’m on the record voting no.”

“You both just went against what you said in your previous comments,” he continued. “I think that’s very amateur hour, it makes the City look very unprofessional and I take offense to it.”

In a conciliatory move, the council opted to elect Smyth to the position of mayor pro tem in a unanimous vote. However McLean, who voted last in the roll call order, expressed reluctance to vote for Smyth in this compromise.

“Now here we go, tit-for-tat” she said, being met with vocal reactions from the gallery. “I thought it was going to be Bill Miranda’s turn to be mayor pro tem.”

She apologized to Miranda before casting a ‘yes’ ballot for Smyth, an act she classified as an attempt to stop “playing this game of dividing this council.”

The meeting was then temporarily adjourned for photos and celebratory cake.

Upon reconvening, now Mayor Pro Tem Smyth proposed that the council adopt a system of rules to avoid conflicts like the one experienced earlier.

“If we had a formal, orderly, nationally recognized system this could have been avoided,” he said.

Smyth consulted with City Attorney Joseph Montes about adopting either Robert’s or Rosenberg’s Rules of Order. These sets of rules are handbooks that outline parliamentary procedures and practices, and have been adopted by local legislative bodies across the country.

These systems, Smyth hoped, would spell out a specific procedure should a substitute measure for mayor be proposed again in the future.

While much of the council was in agreement, McLean dissented. She argued that it would not have changed the ultimate outcome of the vote.

“I’m not going to say what I really want to say,” she said to Smyth.

City Council has reached its holiday recess and will reconvene at City Hall on Jan.8, 2019 at 6 p.m.

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Marsha McLean selected as mayor after divisive council vote
Article Name
Marsha McLean selected as mayor after divisive council vote
After a heated debate that pitted much of the city council against one another, Marsha McLean was sworn in as mayor of Santa Clarita on the night of Dec. 11.
Publisher Name
The Santa Clarita Valley Proclaimer
Ryan Painter

Ryan Painter covers government and politics for The Proclaimer. He has worked at the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, the Daily Trojan and as a campaign staffer during 2018 midterm elections. A 2016 West Ranch graduate, Ryan studies Political Science and International Relations at USC. Find him on Twitter @ryan_pintor.

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