From left, Councilmembers Bob Joe and Dr. Marina Khubesrian hold up their hands in the victory sign after being elected mayor pro tem and mayor, respectively. Outgoing Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider looks on. Photo by Steve Whitmore

The So Pas City Council Wednesday night ushered in a new mayor and a mayor pro tem along with the official swearing-in of the recently elected officials.

City Treasurer Gary Pia, who ran opposed, started the evening’s festivities by taking the oath of office administered by City Clerk Marc Donohue.

City Treasure Gary Pia. Photos by Steve Whitmore

Donohue was to follow by swearing-in Councilman Michael Cacciotti, who handedly defeated a lone challenger, Eric Brady, by about 70 percent of the vote to represent District 4. Then it was Diana Mahmud’s turn to take the oath. Mahmud ran unopposed in District 5.

As a side note, this was the first time in the city’s history that the vote for City Council was not citywide, meaning the top vote getters win, but by district. The district vote was prompted by the threat of a lawsuit last year claiming the city was violating voting rights. There are five districts now in the city that each council member represents.

Moreover, Donohue announced during the council meeting that about 81 percent of the 15,000 registered voters in South Pasadena turned out to the ballot box Nov. 6. This announcement brought a huge round of applause from everyone in attendance.

The final event Wednesday was the selection of the new mayor. This was the last night that Dr. Richard Schneider was to perform his duties as the mayor of South Pasadena. Schneider gave a brief recap of his tenure as mayor, highlighted by the demise of the 710 Freeway extension. Whether it be above ground or below by tunnel, the project is finally dead.

Left, Councilman Michael Cacciotti, Marc Donohue.

Schneider said the defeat of the proposed freeway through So Pas was a testament to the power of an engaged community, whether it be small or large, coming together to achieve a common goal and make a difference.

“This is a huge victory,” Schneider said. “The city’s been fighting that since 1947. That’s 70 years and that’s a long time. It’s a tremendous victory.”

Schneider spoke of other accomplishments during his tenure as mayor such as the Rialto Theatre being leased by the Mosaic Church, which he said was a good arrangement.

“That’s working out well,” he said. “We are pleased as to how that’s going.”

Councilwoman Diana Mahmud takes the oath.

The outgoing mayor touched on other issues that included improving water issues within the city that had been neglected for decades. Also, he spoke of other advancements in the infrastructure such as local roads, and mentioned the importance of passing the city’s Utility Users Tax. After discussing those elements that he thought were successes, he mentioned some things that didn’t get done like making the city 100 percent energy sustainable and a stronger position with public arts. He was gratified, though, with the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC). He said he was especially pleased with the new exhibit of paintings and photographs at City Hall.

Then it was time for Schneider to turn the baton over to the next mayor.

The council voted 5-0 to elect Dr. Marina Khubesrian as the city’s new mayor. Khubesrian then nominated Councilman Bob Joe as the city’s mayor pro tem. Both terms are for one year. The selection of the mayor and the mayor pro tem is a routine rotation for a city this size of about 24,000 residents. However, from time-to-time the rotation does not go as planned.

This Wednesday night, though, at this City Council meeting, everything went according to plan.

Khubesrian and Joe will be officially sworn in at the next council meeting Dec. 19, according to city officials.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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