By Lynne Bronstein
"Our new mayor is incoming,
"But wait, she is outgoing.
"Her personality clearly shines through."
--Dr. Janet Hoult, from "Outgoing/Incoming" a poem she read to the City Council on April 21.
Residents of Culver City packed City Hall on April 28 to welcome the first female mayor the city has had in a decade-Meghan Sahli-Wells.
Sahli-Wells was elected by the Council, along with Micheal Mehaul O' Leary as Vice Mayor, following the oath of office being taken by re-elected incumbents Jeff Cooper and Andrew Weissman.
The last female mayor prior to Sahli-Wells was Carol Gross, who served from 2002 to 2003.
There was little doubt in anyone's mind that Sahli-Wells would receive a unanimous vote for Mayor from the Council, as she had served as Vice-Mayor for the previous year.
O' Leary, who served as Mayor from April 2011 to April 2012, was an inevitable choice for Vice Mayor as it will be his last year in office before being termed out.
Excitement ran high in the Mike Balkman council chambers, with a tuxedo-wearing friend of Sahli-Wells offering her flowers, while other friends embraced her and gave their congratulations.
The business-as-usual items, such as public comment and consent calendar approval, were dispensed with as quickly as possible, as everyone knew that celebration parties were going to happen as soon as the meeting was adjourned.
Assistant City Manager Martin Cole presented the election results. Noting that the vote-counting event on election night drew very few attendees, he thanked all the people who had worked on the election.
"The election ran smoothly, which is a city clerk's dream," he added.
He then swore in Cooper and Clarke, who were given their certificates of election and resumed their seats on the dais.
When Cooper, acting in his last capacity as Mayor, opened nominations for Mayor, Weissman immediately nominated Sahli-Wells and the auditorium burst into applause. Seconds later, when five green lights lit up on the dais to indicate a unanimous vote for Sahli-Wells, there was more applause, whoops of joy, and a standing ovation.
Sahli-Wells then presided over her first action as Mayor-electing the Vice Mayor. O' Leary won this office easily and both victors descended to the well to receive their ceremonial pins from Cole.
Seated again, Sahli-Wells told the audience: "One thing came into my mind as I was being pinned." And looking at her husband in the front row, she said "Karim, I promise you will be my First Man."
She continued: "I want to take a moment to say a few words of congratulations-to Jim and Jeff-it's been wonderful to work with all of you. The voters have shown their confidence in you and in us as a team. I think we have been productive over the last two years and I look forward to more years with you.
"People have asked me: what does the mayor do? It's largely symbolic-you cut ribbons, you speak for the city. But school board member Nancy Goldberg told me 'It's not that you have more power but that you have more influence.' That's a good way of putting it about what the Mayor does in Culver City.
"It's a big honor and a big responsibility to be mayor. I see it as a challenge to the city-I want Culver City to be the best city to raise children in."
Sahli-Wells admitted that this is a "lofty goal" but observed "We're almost there. You hear that people come here for the schools, for the safety, for the excellent services."
She praised the city employees and officials who help to make Culver City as good as it is and noted that there is a "closeness" between the School Board and the City Council.
She reiterated her support for the arts, for environmental safety, for affordable housing.
"I moved here in 1984," she continued. "Culver City was a very different place then. It's better now."
She concluded that Culver City should "be mindful of where we came from, be grounded in present, and have our eyes firmly set toward the future."
And finally, she thanked her husband Karim, her two sons, and her high school history teacher, Jerry Friedman.
"I guess you planted the seeds," she joked.