Former Lake Forest City Councilman Andrew Hamilton sat at the dais one last time Tuesday night to say farewell after residents recalled him through a vote earlier this month and replaced him with retired U.S. Army Colonel Tom Cagley.
“I’ve had the time of my life on the City Council. I’ve enjoyed serving the community in so many ways,” Hamilton said to a crowded council chambers
“I just really appreciate everyone’s kindness and support. I really had the time of my life on City Council. Thanks, I’m signing off. Maybe you’ll see me later in the streets, in a sports park. I just really love our city. Thanks again,” Hamilton said before shaking hands with Councilman Dwight Robinson and Mayor Scott Voigts and waving goodbye to everyone as he walked out of the chambers.
Lake Forest voters, mostly through mail-in ballots, voted to recall Hamilton Jan. 2 by a huge margin of 49 percentage points. The city is home to just over 44,000 voters and 7,700 voters cast their ballots for the recall election, or 17.5 percent.
Just over 5,500 voted to recall Hamilton, while a little over 2,100 opposed the recall.
Cagley won the vote to succeed Hamilton, easily beating former two-term Councilman Mark Tettemer by a margin of nearly 30 percentage points. Cagley secured over half the Jan. 2 vote. Cagley garnered 3,400 votes, while Tettemer received 1,500.
Resident Larissa Fellick Clark launched the petition last year because she, and other recall proponents, took issue with Hamilton’s vote for a contract with OC Animal Care and their belief that Hamilton would be the deciding vote to rezone the Nakase nursery land on Bake Parkway as residential, according to reporting by the Orange County Register.
Additionally, a slew of allegations against Hamilton made the rounds in the city, from quid pro quo voting for political endorsements to Hamilton not showing up to meetings and city events. Hamilton disputed the claims through his blog. He was first elected to the council in 2014.
Cagley was given the oath of office and took Hamilton’s chair. City staff had already replaced Hamilton’s name plate with Cagley’s before he sat down.
The council reorganization wasn’t over yet: The City Council still had to select a new Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem as part of the annual reorganization.
The council unanimously voted to appoint Councilman Jim Gardner as mayor and reappointed Leah Basile as mayor pro tem.
Robinson prefaced his vote for mayor by saying he regrets some of the votes he’s made in the past.
“Over the course of the last year, I’ve looked hard at a variety of the decisions I’ve made,” Robinson said, adding that during the last mayor selection process, he didn’t vote for Councilman Jim Gardner as mayor.
Yet, over the past year, he eventually got to know Gardner through a series of discussions, even though they weren’t always on the same page, Robinson said.
“I shouldn’t let any of my personal feelings get in the way,” Robinson said. “Once I understand what he’s (Gardner) saying, he understands what I’m saying, I think that’s where we find the common ground. And I think that’s important … we shouldn’t be pushing ourselves into silos.”
Robinson urged the rest of the council to talk to each other on personal levels.
“Some of our animosities might slip away. It’s very easy to find someone to be an adversary who you don’t spend time with. You don’t get to know, you don’t talk through issues,” he said.
On Monday, Fountain Valley City Councilman Mark McCurdy abruptly resigned from the council.
In a portion of his resignation letter on the city’s website, McCurdy said, “At this time, I find it necessary to secure employment outside the area, and having no other option, to effective immediately, step down from my position serving on the City Council. It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Fountain Valley and, for that I will always be grateful.”
McCurdy was first elected to the council in 2011 and reelected in 2014.
He was passed over twice in a row for mayor and had a strained relationship with his council colleagues. McCurdy also refused to participate in strategic planning sessions because he said they violate open meeting laws, the OC Register reported.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.