Ceres moves to fill City Council vacancy

CERES -- The City Council has decided to take applications and appoint a member to the vacancy created by Councilman Rob Phipps' death.

Phipps died Dec. 2, less than a month after winning re-election. He was 44.

The council can fill his seat by appointment or special election. The council decided against holding a special election because it would cost about $30,000 and couldn't be held until June.

Applications are due Thursday. On Jan. 2, Mayor Anthony Cannella and Vice Mayor Chris Vierra will interview the top candidates in closed session. On Jan. 3, those applicants will address the council. The vacancy will be filled by Cannella's recommendation with approval by the council.

At Monday's council meeting, several residents urged the council to appoint a runner-up from the November election -- Mike Kline or Steve Breckenridge. Kline came in third with 24.7 percent of the vote behind Phipps' 28 percent. The top vote-getter was incumbent Guillermo Ochoa, followed by Phipps.

Mayor: I'm not trying to stack council

Cannella said Thursday that he wanted to consider more applicants than just Kline and Breckenridge.

"I'm glad they wanted to campaign and were willing to work hard to get elected, but the bottom line is they did not win," Cannella said.

Though Cannella's move might be seen as an attempt to stack the council with members who share his view on city issues, the mayor contended that he is not looking for a "rubber stamp" from the fifth council member.

Those who might submit an application might have decided against running for election in November, Cannella said, because they liked the direction the city was heading and didn't think the incumbents needed to be unseated.

Kline said Thursday he wasn't surprised by the council's choice to open up the field and he intends to submit an application.

To serve on the City Council, candidates must be city residents, registered voters, U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old. The term will expire Nov. 8, 2011.

The two-page application asks candidates about their education and qualifications. It also requires they study the council's strategic plan and address how their objectives match up to the council's visions and goals.

Applications are available online at www.ci.ceres.ca.us or at city hall, 2720 Second St. Paperwork is due Thursday at 5 p.m. For details, call Cindy Heidorn at 538-5731.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.