Hughson councilman Qualls calls it quits

HUGHSON -- City Council- man Stephen Qualls resigned from office this week to take a position as the grass-roots coordinator for the Central Valley division of the League of California Cities.

The city has 30 days from when Qualls stepped down Monday to appoint a successor or call a special election. The earliest election date would be June and the cost would be $20,000 to $30,000.

While Qualls also will leave his day job as a computer programmer in the Bay Area, he said the new job really wouldn't change much in his life.

"I've been so involved in politics," he said, "this is just a continuation of what I've been doing."

He was elected to the Hughson City Council in November 2004 after serving on the city's Planning Commission. Qualls said he would miss setting policy on city growth because "Hughson is still a great place to live."

Qualls said it would be a conflict of interest to continue as a councilman while being a coordinator for the League of California Cities.

"I can't do justice to both," he said.

Until the job opportunity came up, he said, he had planned to run for re-election.

Qualls wouldn't recommend a successor on the council "because in my position I can't get involved in any endorsements. I do want it to be somebody who is aware and really involved."

Of his time on the council, Qualls has only one regret and it isn't the water tank overshadowing some homes near Fox Road.

"I wish it could be done differently, but given the information we had, we didn't have a choice," he said.

His regret is that he was unable to convince fellow council members to take a different approach on waste-water treatment. Qualls said he favors a very careful approach to growth and didn't want to expand waste-water treatment facilities, a measure that passed the council. Even then, he said, "I do respect their viewpoints."

Mayor Kenneth Moore issued a statement as a tribute to his departing colleague.

"It is my pleasure to serve my community alongside Mr. Steven Qualls. Steve has been very passionate regarding his role in public service in Hughson and is truly committed toward a philosophy of commu-nity stewardship."

In his new position, Qualls will represent 26 cities in seven valley and foothill counties.

"I'll be carrying information back and forth on legislation, initiatives and proposals," he said.

He said the league has done much good, including protecting cities' gas tax money.

City Manager Joe Donabed praised Qualls for his contributions and added, "He'll be working for all of us now."

Donabed said those interested in being appointed to fill Qualls' term should turn in their applications by Feb. 19. The council will hold a special session at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 before the regular meeting at 7 to decide whether to appoint a successor or call a special election.

Bee staff writer Roger W. Hoskins can be reached at rhoskins@modbee.com or 578-2311.