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The Changing Of The Guard

LA MESA -- There is a reason presidents bring great poets to their inaugurations. The profundity of the transfer of power in America is difficult to penetrate for masses who can't see the day-to-day role the elected play in keeping government in the people's possession.

On Tuesday night, in the City Council chambers, there was a need for such a poet. After 18 years of showing up at meetings, listening to citizen complaints and helping chart a course for his community, City Council member Ernie Ewin was clearly overcome by the prospects of stepping aside.

Ewin was followed to the spotlight by Mayor Art Madrid, whose own service to this town, outlasted seven U.S. presidents and extended through 40 percent of this city's history. Madrid attempted to capture this moment, but again was sidetracked by the nuts and bolts of local government service. He listed accomplishments made during his tenure, but that was almost beside the point on this night.

The City Council chamber was full with friends and family of the departing and the arriving. This was a night of ritual not substance and virtually anything that veered from the script hit a particularly discordant note. Local resident Craig Maxwell rose to mark this new era and City Council members Ruth Sterling and Kristine Alessio exchanged a few unpleasantries about representation on the San Diego Association of Governments, but in virtually every other way this night was simply for a kind Changing of the Guard.

Local officials who understand what long public service entails came by to honor Madrid and Ewin. Local mayors and state officials brought proclamations, often exchanging friendly barbs with Madrid, whose reputation for feistiness was appreciated -- at least in retrospect on this night.

City Manager Dave Witt boldly noted that Madrid and Ewin were known for their frequent political jousting, but that he saw, from his perspective, how much they had in common, reciting a long list of local accomplishments the two pols achieved together for the people of the city.

When it was his turn to speak, Madrid quoted Cory Booker, the New Jersey politician, reminding his successors they will be judged by their actions not the purity of their dogma. He listed the redevelopment of Fletcher Parkway, the expansion of the city's commission system, the rebuilding of the civic center, the Centennial celebration and the rebuilding of the downtown Village as his strongest achievements in office. Madrid also took a moment to honor his long-serving assistant, Lidia Simms, calling her his "guardian angel'' through many years in City Hall.

And then, it was time to depart. The meeting was halted as Madrid and Ewin left the stage. Seats were re-arranged and namecards moved. "City Councilman Mark Arapostathis" became "Mayor Arapostathis.''

In part a reminder of both his Greek roots and his faith, Arapostathis chose to be sworn in by Greek Orthodox Priest Christopher Flesoras, a long-time friend, whom he met while working at church camp in the mountains in his youth.

Arapostathis briefly thanked all who had come out for this night and then cleared the stage for the swearing in of new council members Bill Baber and Guy McWhirter. Baber, a member of former San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy's administration, asked his old boss to swear him in and Murphy obliged.

The new council members then took their seats, moved quickly through a routine agenda and then recessed until January. A modest reception with many hugs and handshakes followed in the Police Department's community room next door.

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Tags: Art Madrid, Bill Baber, Craig Maxwell, Ernie Ewin, Guy McWhirter, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Lidia Simms, Mark Arapostathis, More…Ruth Sterling


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Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on December 12, 2014 at 8:56pm

Not sure what "unpleasantries" were exchanged.  Councilwoman Sterling asked a question and I responded.  Interesting description of the exchange.

Comment by Don Wood on December 10, 2014 at 4:16pm

It will be interesting to see whether the developers promoting the Park Station redevelopment project have bought themselves a majority on the city council via secret contributions via the Lincoln Club. Watch this space, and watch the council vote.

Comment by Perette Godwin on December 10, 2014 at 2:35pm
I understand Mayor A is an Aztec alum. Gooo Aztecs! Best of luck to you sir.
Comment by Batman on December 10, 2014 at 8:52am

When will this meeting take place between you and the new mayor Mrs. Brinchaman? It needs to be moderated by someone who actually understands the science.

Comment by Susan Brinchman on December 10, 2014 at 8:38am

Welcome to Mayor A! I hope to talk with him soon about improving the health and safety of La Mesans through some simple policies that could be adopted, which I was unable to interest Mayor Madrid in, sadly. I do appreciate very much all the improvements to La Mesa during Mayor Madrids many terms. He cared about the city, that was plain to see, and explains why he was reelected so often. But there is a time to let go, and it has come. As a retired educator, I believe that teachers have many talents. Mayor "A" is a mult-talented strong leader, with an interest in the community. I think he will be a good mayor, but as Mr. Madrid alluded to, the test will be seen in the actions, not "talk". I do notice though, that plenty of actions may be seen in the former Dr. "A"'s list of accomplishments, which is undoubtedly why people entrust him now to lead the city of La Mesa. We need a strong, healthy city. That means our children and citizens need a healthy environment. Health starts with that. So our schools and government buildings should be clean, not leaky, nor moldy. We should reduce exposure to harmful microwave radiation (no cell towers antennas on gov't properties); limit cell tower expansions; take a position against smart meters - approve smart meter bans like 57 other CA municipalities have; work toward smart meter opt-outs for commercial properties; use wired Internet not wifi in all gov't buildings and schools; establish policies that don't allow sewer water to be treated and placed in our faucets by Helix Water District. Quality of life is based on health, first. Without that, we have nothing!

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