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El Cerrito Gets New Mayor – Big Gavel Transfer

The mayor's gavel was handed off in a big way Monday by outgoing Mayor Ann Cheng to newly elected Bill Jones.

With the flourish of a super-sized gavel, El Cerrito got a new mayor Monday night – seven-year City Council veteran Bill Jones.

Following the unanimous election of Jones by the five-member council, outgoing Mayor Ann Cheng picked up a giant wood gavel and stood hoisting it like an overgrown sledgehammer in Jones' direction.

Wielding a big gavel

Though the photo of the transfer makes it look as though Jones may have been on the verge of being literally crowned with the emblem of his new title, no aggressive intent was shown by Cheng, who has presided over council meetings during the past year with noted calm, sensitivity and supportive civility.

Jones smiled broadly as he grasped the implement securely with his right hand.

The office of mayor is rotated once a year among the council members under a city policy by the which the current mayor pro tem becomes the new mayor. Jones was mayor pro tem for the past year. The mayor pro tem is selected according in a rotation determined by the number of votes received and the year of election. The council may override the policy at is discretion, though it seldom does.

The council also unanimously elected Councilman Greg Lyman, who was elected to the council in 2008, as the new mayor pro tem.

Jones talks of the coming year

Jones, who works in construction administration and won his first four-year term on the council in 2004, served as mayor also in 2008. An El Cerrito resident for more than four decades, he was a member of the Park and Recreation Commission in 1990-97 and a Financial Advisory Board member in 2004.

Jones identified a number of significant issues and milestones for the city in the coming year, including the opening of the new , the Strategic Plan, the future of the city's , further study of becoming a and the 2012-13 city budget.

He laid special stress on the search for ways to pay for replacing the "aging and inefficient" , and . He described the issue as "probably the most frustrating."

He concluded, "I look forward to serving on a City Council that will team with our city personnel, our boards, commissions and committees and our residents to make the best possible decisions and implement actions that will live up to the mission of the city."

Cheng reflects on the past year

Cheng thanked her family and city staff for their support and offered a brief list of city accomplishments of the past year, including the city being a leader in adopting multi-modal transportation as a council goal, the celebration of the , the in the sidewalk, completion of the under budget and ahead of schedule, the two-city street party, a , achieving a bike-friendly reputation and the program, among others.

"Having grown up in El Cerrito," she said, "it makes me feel so good that we have such creative thinking, such complementary thinking. It's wonderful that people are willing to step up."

"All of this is just to continue the wonderful trend of prior years and prior councils, and I'm just so proud to help carrry the torch, and also to pass the torch tonight," she said in her concluding hand-over-the-gavel remarks.

"When I go around the region in my day job of doing urban planning work." she continued, "and going to other people's council meetings and encouraging them to do the right things when it comes to transportation, land-use policy planning, I get to reflect and think about how we're lucky to have a council and a community and staff that all understand in our minds in achieving the same vision, because when we get to do that, we actually get to make change, rather than getting kind of mired in conflicts and essentially not getting much done other than fighting with each other. So it's a great luxury – it's a great gift – that we all are giving each other by working together and trusting each other and asking each other to stand up and do our best."

Christina Slamon December 10, 2011 at 06:50 AM
With all the improvements taken on in El Cerrito lately, I would like to add one suggestion. The lettering on many of the street signs in El Cerrito are old and faded. They no longer glow at night so that you can read them while driving. Maybe there is a less expensive way to fix this instead of replacing all of the signs. Has there been any technological advances in this area? I personally had a very hard time finding Norvell Street the other night even though I had an idea where it was; I couldn't read any of the signs. I had to circle around several times before I found it. Anyway, just my suggestion to help those people like myself that have to make deliveries at night.

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