By Nick Diamantides
The Signal Hill City Hall Council Chamber had a capacity crowd Tuesday night as well-wishers came to see Councilman Ed Wilson appointed as the city’s new mayor. Annually, at the second meeting in March, the Signal Hill City Council reorganizes itself by selecting a new mayor and vice mayor. By unanimous vote, the council selected Wilson as mayor and Councilman Larry Forester as vice mayor.
After the votes, outgoing Mayor Ellen Ward, who just fulfilled her one-year term, thanked various people for helping and supporting her during her tenure as mayor. She noted that the city’s many successes are the result of the council and city staff working together as a team. “The entire staff does a great job,” she added.
Ward also stressed the importance of residents volunteering in programs sponsored by the city. “We have a lot of places where people can get involved,” she said, adding that volunteerism is vital during this time of the city’s shrinking budget.
After Ward’s brief comments, dignitaries lined up to give her certificates honoring her for her many accomplishments as mayor. Ward received the honors from people representing the Long Beach Unified School District, State Senator Jenny Oropeza, State Senator Alan Lowenthal, State Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal, and County Supervisor Don Knabe.
Wilson was the last one in line, and he gave Ward a plaque commending her for her work as mayor. “Serving as mayor takes a lot of your time,” he said. “Ellen has done an outstanding job in a very difficult year.”
After the presentations, Ward gave the new official mayoral badge to Wilson, making the change of leadership official.
Then Wilson, in his first official act as mayor, gave a speech touching briefly on his past and looking forward to the next 12 months. He noted that he came to Los Angeles in 1980 at 17 years old and did not know anyone in the area. “I had $1,000, a blue suitcase and a letter of acceptance from USC,” he said. “Who would have thought that one day I would be mayor of Signal Hill?”
Wilson then thanked his daughter Ashley for attending the ceremony and explained that she is the most important person in his life. He also thanked his many supporters and friends who were in the audience. Later, alluding to recent earthquakes, he quipped that both he and the president of Chile had the earth move on their first day of office.
Turning to more serious matters, Wilson reminded the audience that because of the economic recession, 2009 was a very tough year for the city and 2010 will not be much better.
But Wilson did not linger on the difficulties ahead. Instead, he pointed to several things the city could look forward to in the next year. Those include the groundbreaking of the new police station, the groundbreaking of the EDCO materials recovery plant, and the planned openings of a Fresh and Easy Market, an In & Out Restaurant and a Ross Dress for Less store.
Wilson noted that, with any luck, construction on the Cherry Avenue widening project could also begin in the next 12 months.
Then, touching lightly on his philosophy, Wilson asked what has made the city so successful during the past two decades or so. “I think what really works is surrounding yourself with good people and trying to do things in common that will benefit everybody,” he said. He also echoed Ward’s comments and thanked the council members and city staff for consistently working together as a team.
“We always look to do things a little bit better,” Wilson said. “I hope by the end of this year things will be a little bit better (for Signal Hill).” The new mayor also asked everyone to support three upcoming events: the golf tournament sponsored jointly by the Signal Hill and Lakewood chambers of commerce; the first Signal Hill Criterium Bicycle Race; and the Second Annual 100 Black Men Conference at The Grand.
After Wilson’s comments, Forester also spoke briefly. He warned that the city’s sales tax revenues were down drastically. “The city will have to trim wherever possible to avoid layoffs and furloughs,” he said.
The meeting closed with the reorganization of the Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency. Councilwoman Tina Hansen was appointed chair, and Councilman Mike Noll was appointed vice chair.
Then the council, staff and audience members walked to the nearby Signal Hill Community Center where there were more people than available chairs. Participants spent the next approximately two hours celebrating Wilson’s appointment to the office of mayor, feasting on a variety of cuisine offerings donated by local restaurants, and listening to live music.
Toward the end of the evening, Wilson told the Signal Tribune he was confident that the city would successfully navigate its way through the budget crunch and that its revenues would ever so slowly begin to rise again. “I look forward to the challenges and opportunities I will face as mayor,” he said.