Almanac

News - March 26, 2014

Atherton voters to choose next council member

by Renee Batti

Atherton City Council members will divvy up the duties of their former colleague Jim Dobbie until December rather than appoint a new member to serve out Mr. Dobbie's term, they decided on March 19.

Mr. Dobbie, whose term was to end in December, resigned from the council earlier this month due to poor health.

Council members considered alternatives that included appointing a new member that night, opening an application period for residents interested in serving on the council through November, or leaving the post vacant until a successful candidate for the seat in the Nov. 3 election joins the council in early December.

After Mr. Dobbie resigned on March 4, town staff contacted residents who applied for a vacancy last year resulting from Jerry Carlson's resignation. Seven candidates were considered for appointment to that seat, but the council was unable to choose.

City Manager George Rodericks said five of the applicants indicated they were still interested: Diane Beymer-Sandhu, Greg Conlon, Michael Lempres, John Ruggeiro, and Jo-Ann Sockolov.

Rick DeGolia, another applicant for Mr. Carlson's seat, ran successfully for the post in November. A seventh candidate, Michael Stogner, is now a permanent resident of San Carlos.

When the agenda item came up last week, Mr. Ruggeiro was the first to address the council, saying he really was no longer interested in the position, and that council members should consider not appointing anyone to avoid giving that person "a leg up" as an incumbent in the November election.

But, he suggested, if council members were really determined to appoint someone, they should appoint Mr. Conlon, who ran for a council seat twice.

Alternatively, he said, they could appoint him, and he would promise not to run for the seat in November.

Council members agreed that appointing a new member would give that person an advantage at the ballot box, which they were reluctant to do. They also agreed that, even if they wanted to fill the seat before the election, it would be a bad idea to choose that night from among the applicants for Mr. Carlson's seat without opening the application process for people who might now be interested in an appointment. "It would be unfair to do that," Councilman Bill Widmer said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis said she was inclined to leave the seat vacant and, on hindsight, was "glad we didn't appoint (anyone) last year" to fill Mr. Carlson's seat. That decision led to an election in November with three candidates, and "it got people involved," she said. An election promotes involvement by "people who really do want to serve and not just get an easy appointment," she said.

Mr. Dobbie, 83, served on the council for about six years before resigning. His wife, Pat, told the Almanac that her husband has for the last few months battled a strange respiratory condition, and despite undergoing numerous tests by "outstanding" doctors, the cause remains a mystery.

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