Santa Clara leaders on Monday will attempt to appoint a new councilmember to represent the city’s District 5, following the early resignation of former Councilmember Patricia Mahan due to health issues.
The big question since Mahan’s Feb. 1 resignation has been whether the remaining councilmembers would be able to agree in the required four-fifths vote on who should fill the vacancy representing the city’s downtown until November, when residents would elect a representative for the next four years. Many of the elected officials on the council now have tried twice in recent years to appoint interim leaders to traditionally elected positions vacated early with no success because of infighting and division.
When Dominic Caserta stepped down from his council seat in May 2018, the remaining elected officials debated for hours about who to appoint to his seat with no luck. Mahan was one of the votes against appointing someone new because she said an elected position should not be appointed by the council.
Then last July, former Police Chief Mike Sellers announced he’d retire effective Sept. 1 — more than a year early from his elected position — and councilmembers discussed appointing a new chief until the end of his term in November, but ultimately decided they’d never reach the four-fifth majority required to appoint a new candidate.
But in February, the six remaining elected officials agreed to open up applications to residents who want to take over the District 5 councilmember position until November. Councilmembers have one month to appoint a new person to the position. So far, eight people have applied for the job. The applicants include:
Robert Albert Ku-ka-ili-moku Jr., also known as Rob Avina, who said in his application he’s “never thought of Santa Clara in terms of districts,” but as one city. “As against appointments as I generally am, I would be honored to be able to join in the learning and leadership, while hopefully, never taking unfair advantage, as I know listening to our many citizens carefully, is an enormous responsibility.”
Deborah Cordova, a procurement administrator with the San Mateo County Transportation Agency who has lived in the city for more than two decades. Her background in civil service, procurement, contract management and her zeal for transparency in government and the public would make her a good candidate, she said. “My interests are to support of this community with no business or any type of impartial conflict of interest,” her application states.
Mark Fertelmeister is a manager at Santa Clara-based Nvidia Corp. and graduate of Santa Clara University, who recently purchased a home in the city. “As a new homeowner that (wants) to establish roots and raise my family here, I want to do everything in my power to assist in making this an awesome community to live, work and play in,” he said in his application.
Sudhanshu “Suds” Jain is a planning commissioner and former Charter Review Committee and Chief of Police Citizens’ Advisory Committee member. “As a planning commissioner I have often been limited to enforcing current city policies,” he said. “Often I have wanted to go beyond those policies to ask for more impact fees, especially for traffic congestion.”
Andrew Knaack is an associate director at the Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area and is currently the chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Knaack aims “to leverage Santa Clara’s unique municipal assets including SVP and its WiFi and fiber infrastructure to push forward as a national leader in environmental sustainability, cyber security, and digital inclusion,” he said.
Brian Lowery is a consulting engineer with Acorn Computer. The former chairperson for the city’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee ran for Santa Clara City Council in 2006 and 2008. “I hope to preserve and maintain Santa Clara’s commitment to its Convention, Senior Citizen’s, Youth Activity and International Swim centers,” he said.
Robert O’Keefe, a now-retired lieutenant for the California Highway Patrol serves on the Old Quad Residents Association and SC Family Neighborhoods. He wants to focus on the city’s downtown and El Camino specific plans, transit and issues around Santa Clara University. “My entire professional career has been dedicated to public service and I still wish to serve,” he said.
Keri Procunier McLain is the CEO of KPM & Associates who served on the Santa Clara City Council in the 90’s and has since volunteered or served on the board of a slew of nonprofit and civic groups like the YWCA, the Mission City Community Fund and a women’s homeless shelter. Some of her goals include rebuilding the city’s downtown and mending its relationship with the San Francisco 49er’s.
Councilmembers will hold candidate interviews and a special meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in City Hall at 1500 Warburton Ave. to decide which person — if any — to appoint days ahead of a March 12 deadline. If officials can’t agree on who should fill the position, the District 5 council seat will remain vacant until the November election.