There was a lot of love to go around the Signal Hill Council Chamber at the March 19 meeting.
Well-wishers and local community leaders packed the chamber that night to offer hugs, flowers and numerous awards to the outgoing officers and to congratulate the incoming officers.
They bade farewell to outgoing Councilmember Ellen Ward, welcomed Lori Woods to the Council dais and congratulated Michael Noll and Ed Wilson, who will now serve a year term as Signal Hill’s new mayor and vice mayor, respectively. Outgoing mayor Tina Hansen finished her term as the leader of the Council and now resumes her role as a councilmember.
The annual city tradition for the changing of the guard comes just two weeks after the municipal election in which four candidates for Signal Hill Council challenged incumbents Noll, Wilson and Ward for their office. Ward narrowly lost her bid to stay on the Council, and Tuesday marked the end of her 12 years on the dais.
In her final address as the outgoing mayor, Hansen devoted much of her time recalling the accomplishments made by the City since Ward joined the Council. Hansen honored the exiting councilmember who has often offered zingers, pointed remarks and regular reminders to shop in Signal Hill during her time on the Council.
“I have sat on the City Council with her for 12 years,” Hansen said of her friend and colleague who turns 76 next month, “and it’s been nothing but enjoyable even when we fight. Because Ellen is one of those rare people who is nothing but honest in telling you what she thinks. She will let you know when she is mad at you, but she will forgive you and move on.”
Hansen remembered how the councilmember created both a mayor’s cleanup effort and a community yard sale and served on the Council at a time when the City completed 45 major capital-improvement projects and finished the new police headquarters. The outgoing mayor’s voice broke a little as she summed up Ward’s service to her community.
“She will be missed on the Council,” Hansen said, “but I know she will never stop working and supporting the city of Signal Hill because this is where her heart is. And I, on behalf of the entire City of Signal Hill, want to thank you, Ellen, for your love, devotion, service and commitment to the city we all share.”
Ward acknowledged the outpouring of heartfelt appreciation with humor. She recalled the days she spent campaigning and how she finished the election with a vote tally that totaled less than her colleague Wilson, who finished third behind Noll and Woods.
“I needed 12 more votes, and Ed would have been up here,” Ward said with a laugh. After the final vote was tallied and all ballots were counted a few days after the election, Ward ended up 19 votes behind Wilson.
The outgoing councilmember also praised new Councilmember Woods.
“I know she’s going to do an outstanding job,” Ward said of Woods. “I have really good feelings about leaving it because she ran an honest campaign and she worked hard.”
Ward couldn’t resist the temptation of one final passing zinger. She made a parting request to the Council to approve a two-percent cost-of-living raise to the City employees. Ward said these employees have not received a raise in five years. Her request drew laughter, applause and a number of cheers.
Her last quip begged the question– is it funny because it’s true? Yes, for the most part. The last time City employees received a cost-of-living raise was in 2009, according to Deputy City Manager Charlie Honeycutt.
New Councilmember Woods acknowledged Ward’s contributions to the city. She even honored her former rival later that evening at the reception with a gift. Woods also thanked her supporters as she expressed her enthusiasm for her new role to represent the city.
“It’s a very humbling experience to have been elected with such a vote of confidence by you, the residents of Signal Hill,” Woods told the scores of supporters and local leaders who joined the reception.
The City also celebrated Noll and Wilson, who were earlier that evening unanimously elected by the Council to serve as mayor and vice mayor.
In a follow-up interview Tuesday night, Noll named a few items on the priority list for the new Council: bills in the State Legislature that will be reviewed by city leaders; the property that is now managed by the City’s Successor Agency after the State dissolved the former redevelopment agency more than a year ago; and the proposal to construct a new library.
“We have a great Council, and we’ll work together as a team like we have in the past,” Mayor Noll told the Council in his brief remarks as the new leader. “Sometimes we don’t always agree, but after we vote, we work towards the goal.”
The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 2 at 7pm in the Council Chamber at City Hall.