City Council Veterans Exit, Newcomers Face Key Decisions

By Haley Sawyer
The Review

Three South Pasadena City Council members have departed after a year of challenges, while three new members have joined ahead of decisions that could have a major impact on the city.
Bob Joe, Richard Schneider and Stephen Rossi each appeared in their final council meeting on Dec. 2, and Evelyn Zneimer, Jack Donovan and Jon Primuth appeared in their first.
Joe, the outgoing mayor, leaves after 10 years on the council.

“I’ve learned that public service is about helping others and I will continue to follow that,” Joe said. “And in return, there are so many residents and citizens that are really caring for this city. And to know them, we have built together a growing relationship.”
An olive tree, a symbol of peace and friendship, will be planted in front of the South Pasadena Senior Center in his honor. A bench at the same location will also be named after him.
Councilwoman Diana Mahmud succeeds Joe for the upcoming mayoral term.
“He has spent so much time dedic ated to service of the city,” Mahmud said of Joe. “At times, Bob, it seems that you have literally been everywhere. I can think of few, if any, city events that you have missed.”
Schneider, who oversaw District 3, retires from the council after a 13-year tenure and was presented with a city tile and plaque.
“I really appreciated the privilege and the honor of serving for the city, which I had never expected to do when I first moved into the city,” Schneider said. “I think the city has progressed a lot in the last 13 years.
“Actually,” he quipped, “it’s 13 years, eight months, 29 days and about seven hours, or something.”
Rossi began serving in an interim council position after the resignation of Marina Khubesrian in August. He represented District 2 and was chosen from among five applicants, partly because his financial skills lent themselves to the variety of budgetary issues at the time.
Rossi has lived in South Pasadena since 2007 and is a managing director at Palm Tree LLC. He was presented with a city tile and plaque to commemorate his service.
In addition to seeing Khubesrian’s resignation, Joe, Schneider, Rossi and the rest of the council had a 2020 they likely didn’t expect, not least because of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, this was the city’s first virtual changing of the guard.
Joe and Schneider helped approve an al fresco dining pilot program for the city, which allowed restaurants to better serve their guests in an outdoor environment. They also aided in beginning the conversation on exploring police reform in South Pasadena and affirmed the council’s stance on guaranteeing safety and equality to all residents.
Zneimer, a South Pasadena resident for 35 years, will take over for District 1. She previously was elected as city clerk for seven years and also is an immigration and family attorney.
Assuming the District 2 seat is Donovan, another longtime South Pasadena resident. Now retired, Donovan formerly managed American Aerospace Materials in Monterey Park and was a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission for six years.
Primuth, an attorney, takes the reins for District 3. He joins the council after one term on the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education.
The new-look council will have a host of issues to handle in the coming year, including finding a new city manager. Interim City Manager Sean Joyce, who took on the temporary role in September, can serve a maximum of six months in the position. The council voted to remove Stephanie DeWolfe, the prior city manager, in the wake of a political scandal touched off by the city’s budgeting and financial state.
The group will also usher in a new police chief due to the departure of Joe Ortiz in late November, and its decision could steer the conversation of police reform in South Pasadena. Although Deputy Chief Brian Solinsky has assumed the role of interim chief, Ortiz’s retirement starts on March 1 after an administrative leave.
The finance director position is the third vacancy to be filled. Karen Aceves resigned in October, ostensibly as the latest casualty of the political tumult that also prompted Khubesrian’s resignation after the then-councilwoman admitted to attacking residents and a colleague via pseudonymous emails.
In addition to making those three hires, the council will continue to navigate restrictions due to concerns of COVID-19 and the economic impact that they will have on the city, its businesses and its residents.
The crew, under the direction of Mahmud, will next meet on Wednesday, Dec. 16.