Merced council, mayor sworn in

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comDecember 2, 2013 

— The Merced City Council has two new faces on the dais.

After the sitting members voted to certify the Nov. 5 election on Monday, Michael Belluomini and Kevin Blake took the oath of office and their seats at the council.

Outgoing were Councilman Bill Blake, the father of Kevin Blake, and Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling. Both were elected in 2009 and did not run for re-election this year.

Re-elected Mayor Stan Thurston and Councilman Josh Pedrozo also took oaths on Monday.

Belluomini ran on his more than 30 years in city and school planning. The 63-year-old on Monday said Merced should prepare its raw land for development. This would allow the city to court developers. “One of the city’s highest priorities should be to bring basic industries to the city,” he said, adding that youth services are also a priority.

Kevin Blake, 33, ran his campaign with a focus on ways Merced could effectively tackle homelessness, crime, gangs and drug abuse. He said that if the city can improve on dealing with those issues, development will come. “This is a very humbling experience for me,” Blake said.

Pedrozo was also appointed Monday as mayor pro tem, a three-year position most recently held by Councilman Noah Lor. “This is a community I truly care about,” Pedrozo said, adding that Merced is full of potential, but “Potential is nothing if you don’t work on it.”

Pedrozo ran for re-election while pushing what he saw as a successful first four years. The 30-year-old son of Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo pointed to increasing development in town and avoiding any city employee layoffs over the past two years.

Thurston, 69, also ran on his record, touting business and job growth during his tenure, as well as his efforts toward an inclusive and transparent government.

Thurston compared assembling a team to putting together a symphony orchestra. “I think we’re going to make some beautiful music this next year,” he said.

Thurston will serve a three-year term through 2016, and each of the councilmen will serve five-year terms through 2018.

The terms have been increased by an extra year this time around because voters in November approved Measure J, which moves municipal elections to even-numbered years to align them with statewide elections. Once that happens, the terms will return to their normal two- and four-year lengths for mayoral and council seats, respectively.

Both Rawling and Bill Blake cited personal reasons for not continuing their time in office. “This was definitely a difficult decision,” Rawling said.

Blake said he wanted to use his time to travel and be with his grandchildren. “It’s time to take a break and go do some fun stuff,” he said.

According to numbers from the Merced County Registrar of Voters, 24.8 percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots last month. With 3,797 votes, Thurston topped his opponent, Lor, by 5 percentage points.

In the council race, Pedrozo received 4,013, Blake, 3,371; and Belluomini, 2,865 votes.

John Bramble, who sits simultaneously as city manager and city clerk, administered the oaths of office.

City Council members receive a monthly stipend of $20, and the mayor receives an additional $50 each month for sitting on the council, according to city documents.

Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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