Nobody campaigned on acrimony and divisiveness as newly elected city councilmembers but based on the first City Council meeting it appears that is exactly what the residents of Villa Park will get. One of the first agenda items for the new City Council was electing a new mayor and in the City of Villa Park, long standing tradition is that the Mayor Pro Tem is elected Mayor. Not this time.
This largely ceremonial title would have made Mayor Pro Tem Vince Rossini the next mayor. The position is considered ceremonial because the position of “mayor” present in this type of government does not wield any additional political or voting power. The mayor presides over city council meetings and signs all ordinances and resolutions adopted and contracts approved by the City Council. The mayor cannot directly appoint or remove officials, and lacks veto power over City Council votes.
In a redo of four years ago, it quickly became clear there was an orchestrated attempt to install Robbie Pitts over Vince Rossini as mayor. Public comments came in support for both mayoral candidates, followed by Crystal Miles nominating Vince Rossini as mayor and incoming councilmember Jordan Wu nominating Robbie Pitts. The other incoming Councilmember, Nicol Jones, appeared to distance herself from Jordan Wu’s nomination by stating later that “I hadn’t made up my own mind as far as how I am going to vote.”
After much heated city council debate over the matter, Vince Rossini removed his name from consideration in the best interest of the city. Robbie Pitts was elected the ceremonious mayor and Vince Rossini was elected Mayor Pro Tem.
As Wayne Silzel noted in his public comments, mayor is “not that big of a deal.” However, what might be a big deal is the amount of acrimony and discord that took place at the first City Council meeting of the new term. To many it appeared evident that there is strife already between incoming and incumbent City councilmembers which may drag out through this term.
Quotes from the City Council Meeting
We’ll get by fine with whomever you choose so it’s not that big of a deal but it is important with the continuity, that the Mayor Pro Tem does take the position…I like the idea of tradition because it takes you off the hook for having bolted from the tradition.”Wayne Silzel, two-time City Councilmember
The selection of mayor is the first act as council for you. Will your vote tonight demonstrate to the city that you’re going to engage in divisive politics or will your vote demonstrate that you respect and embrace Villa Park history and precedent and will work to bring the community together?”Donna Buxton, who narrowly lost to Jordan Wu by 6 votes
It’s unfortunate to me that the first act that both of you, as newly elected councilmembers, decided to stray from the tradition…and very disappointing.”Crystal Miles
We have five councilmembers here and only four years for us to be mayor.”Nicole Jones
It’s odd to me that the concern is about who is not going to end up being mayor.”Crystal Miles
I couldn’t be more disappointed to hear some of my past colleagues and two of my new colleagues, that basically the first decision that they make is something that is in and of itself divisive.”Vince Rossini
[residents] shared with me their displease of councilmen Vince.”Jordan Wu
I offered to meet with you and you never responded and that’s disappointing.”Vince Rossini (pointing towards Jordan Wu)
About the Mayor Selection
Established tradition is that the Mayor Pro Tem is elected Mayor. The next Mayor Pro Tem is someone who has not served during their 4 year term. Typically, the City Council uses the number of votes a councilmember receives in an election to determine the order of who is Mayor Pro Tem next. The highest vote getter is first.
Under this tradition all City Council members serve a year as Mayor Pro Tem and then Mayor during their 4 year term. This protocol has been followed since Villa Park’s inception over 55 years ago and the very few exceptions are littered with political infighting.
2016 when Diana Fascenelli nominated Rick Barnett as Mayor Pro Tem over Bill Nelson. Barnett had already been Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem and by protocol it should have been Nelson, thus injecting political divisiveness over established protocol. In 2014 tradition was followed when in-coming City Council members Nelson and Collacott voted for Fascenelli as Mayor, after having served as Mayor Pro Tem.
Some might question why this is the practice but there is little political advantage to not follow tradition while risking political discord to start the new City Council era. Villa Park is under California General Law and has a council-manager form of government.