LIVINGSTON -- There's been a lot of change in these parts lately, and the man who's been at the helm for most of it will stay at his post.
Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza, who took his position because of the Aug. 31 recall of former mayor Daniel Varela Sr., and former councilwoman Martha Nateras, won the election by another staggering number -- 76 percent by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Residents were lined up at the polls to cast their ballots to again decide the leadership of their city, which is in the midst of lots of change, not only on the council, but also with the city manager and city attorney.
Former mayor Gurpal Samra was elected to serve on the City Council in place of Warren Urnberg, who was appointed after the recall.
By 11 p.m. Tuesday night, Samra held a commanding lead with 56 percent of the vote. "It shows me that the voters are giving me a tremendous amount of trust," he said. "I can't wait to start my next session on the council."
There's a lot of work to be done, Samra said. His main priority will be the city's water issues. "Everything else will be put on the shelf," Samra said. "We will fix the issues on the water."
Samra plans to present his ideas on how to address the problems with the wells within the first few council meetings.
Because of the election, the latest version of the council will be comprised of four members who were strongly opposed to the utility rate increases that sparked the Aug. 31 recall. The only member of the council who supported the rate hike is Councilman Frank Vierra.
However, Samra thinks it's important to make sure the council is united. "It's not a four-person council, it has to be a five-person council," he said. "We can't let Mr. Vierra feel alone."
Espinoza agreed that the council has to work together on issues, especially water quality. "I think we can move forward with the city even if we have to find a new city manager," he said.
With the recent recall election of Varela, it wasn't a surprise to Espinoza that he would keep his position as mayor.
Despite being down in the polls last night, Varela said he remained optimistic.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.