In a changing of the guard ceremony at City Hall on Tuesday night, Margaret Abe-Koga became Mountain View's first female Asian-American mayor, while Ronit Bryant became vice mayor and two longtime council members said farewell.
Outgoing Mayor Tom Means relinquished the reigns to Abe-Koga after she was voted in unanimously by the council.
In her acceptance speech, Abe-Koga remembered her father's remarks before he passed away in 2007: "Only in American could the daughter of an immigrant be elected to serve as mayor."
As Abe-Koga's two young daughters looked on, she thanked Art Takahara, the city's first Asian mayor, for paving the way.
Mountain View faces "challenging times" this year due to a projected budget deficit, Abe-Koga said, but she was confident the city would emerge stronger than before.
She also said she was disturbed by a recent spate of hate crimes in the city, and that she herself had received a "derogatory e-mail" from a constituent. Such sentiments do not reflect the inclusiveness of the community, Abe-Koga said, and she urged residents to continue to act collaboratively.
The new mayor said she would continue the mayoral tradition of holding open a weekly time slot so that anyone could meet. She is calling it "Chat with MAK."
Abe-Koga is Harvard educated and is a former county school board trustee for the Mountain View area. Council member Jac Siegel read aloud a remarkably long list of local groups, boards and committees that Abe-Koga has been involved with, including the Community Health Awareness Council and the Valley Transportation Authority, for which she is on the policy advisory council.
The mayor of Mountain View runs City Council meetings and helps the city manager set the agenda for council meetings. In his outgoing remarks, Means reminded people that the mayor does not have "superpowers." He said some people might have wondered, when there was a problem, why he couldn't tell the city manager to go down to the second floor and "straighten things out. It's not like that," Means said.
Means was commended for his accomplishments as mayor during 2008, which included selecting over 60 members for the city's Environmental Sustainability Task Force.
"I'm already being typecast in this role," Means said, referring to his recent performance as the mayor character in the Nutcracker at the Center for Performing Arts.
Ronit Bryant was voted in unanimously as vice mayor. She will be next in line for mayor, according to Mountain View tradition.
In a town with lots of "intelligence" and "spunk," Bryant is a "perfect match," said council member Laura Macias. "I think she surprises people with her quiet determination."
Outgoing council members Matt Pear and Nick Galiotto were commended for their service over the last eight years before stepping down. With their departure, six out of seven council members have four years of council experience, at most.
Pear, the only lifelong resident on the council, was commended for his "sound fiscal judgment." Pear often provided a conservative view in contrast to others on the council. He said that the Graham Middle School underground reservoir was one of the projects he was most proud of during his term.
Galiotto, a former Mountain View police captain, was commended for his focus on public safety and emergency preparedness. As an older council member, he dedicated the city's new Senior Center during his term as mayor in 2006. He often provided wisdom and a sense of clarity during difficult council discussions.
Kasperzak was sworn in as the first former council member to be elected for a third term in 16 years. He says he's already gotten his first familiar phone call from self-described gadfly Don Letcher.
Newly sworn council member John Inks kept it brief, thanking the many volunteers who helped him walk to neighborhoods in his campaign. Inks is a retired aerospace engineer and was a city commissioner for many years.
"John probably walked and hit more doors than anyone," said Means, who also campaigned in November. Means and Macias were sworn in once again after being reelected in November.
About a dozen various new commissioners were sworn in, including 2009 council candidate Chris Clark, who was selected to be on the Human Relations Commission.