Update: In surprise, Cameron Smyth named new Santa Clarita mayor

FILE PHOTO: New Santa Clarita mayor Cameron Smyth is sworn in, with his family at his side, by city clerk Mary Cusickon on Dec. 13, 2016. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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Santa Clarita has a new mayor, and it’s a bit of a surprise – Cameron Smyth.

Smyth — elected as a council member only last month after a 10-year absence from the body, during which he served in the state Assembly — was officially appointed to the one-year job Tuesday night during a special council meeting at City Hall prior to the body’s regular meeting.

His appointment passed by a 3-1 margin, with outgoing Mayor Bob Kellar casting the lone “no” vote.

Council member Laurene Weste, in a unanimous vote, was appointed mayor pro tem by her fellow members.

Kellar said he had nothing but respect for Smyth, but said, “I think it’s a little soon to bring him back as mayor.”

“A year from now, I would have had no problem with it (making Smyth mayor),” Kellar later told The Signal. “But I think he needs a year to catch up.’’

Kellar said he had been prepared to nominate Weste for the mayor’s job. Instead, Weste nominated Smyth.

With his swearing-in to the council, Smyth began his second stint on the city’s governing board. He was first elected in 2000, and then again in 2004 before winning an Assembly seat and stepping down from the council in 2006, as required by law upon winning another office.

New Santa Clarita mayor Cameron Smyth kisses his daughter just after being sworn in as a new city council member on Tuesday night. Katharine Lotze/Signal
New Santa Clarita mayor Cameron Smyth kisses his daughter just after being sworn in as a new city council member on Tuesday night. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Smyth was mayor twice in his six previous years on the council – and now becomes mayor again.

“I look forward to getting to work,” Smyth said. “That’s why I ran.”

Smyth discounted the learning-curve issue brought up by Kellar, pointing to his previous gigs on the council and assembly and saying, “Any one of us (on the council) can do the job – we’ve all had the experience.”

Regarding Kellar’s vote against him as mayor, Smyth said, “I’ve known Bob for 20 years. He has his belief system. It’s nothing personal. … It probably won’t be the first time we are on opposite sides of an issue.”

Smyth also said that Kellar had given him a heads-up that he would vote against him.

Weste, in nominating Smyth, pointed to his previous experience and added, in an interview with The Signal, “He’s up to the task. There’s nothing he needs to catch up on.”

Meanwhile, Weste’s ascension to mayor pro tem sets her up to be mayor in 2018, when she would be up for re-election to the council and, presumably, more in the spotlight.

She said that did not play a role in her decision to nominate Smyth for mayor this time – saying, “I’ve run (before) as mayor and as a council member.”

She did not confirm she will seek re-election in 2018, but did say, “I’m thinking about it.”

After Kellar and Smyth – the two victors in November’s council election – were sworn in to their new four-year terms, they joined fellow members Weste and Marsha McLean in choosing a mayor from among themselves, per city procedure.

Smyth succeeds Kellar as mayor – a position that, under Santa Clarita’s council/city manager form of government, is a largely ceremonial, and carries no more power than any other council seat.

But it does entail more of a time commitment for all manner of city business, including chairing council meetings, plus numerous public appearances.

“I jokingly say to my husband, ‘I’ll see you next year,’ ’’ Weste, who has served as mayor four times, joked back in November, when the subject was raised with her about possibly sitting once again in the big seat.

The mayor’s post also pays no more than any other council seat — $1,832.57 a month.

Typically, the previous year’s mayor pro tem steps into the mayor’s role upon the mayor’s year-long term ending.

But this year, that handoff could not happen because the previous mayor pro tem, Dante Acosta, left the council on Dec. 4, a day before he ascended to the state Assembly from the 38th District.

That left the council operating Tuesday with four members, not the full roster of five, because of the Acosta vacancy – and indeed, the process by which the council will fill Acosta’s vacant seat was a major item on the agenda for the council’s regular meeting later Tuesday night.

Weste is a five-term council member, first elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.

McLean is in her fourth term on the council. She was first elected in 2002, then again in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

Kellar, ending his third term as mayor, began his fifth council term on Tuesday — having first been elected in 2000 and getting re-elected in 2004, 2008, 2012, and again last month.In exiting as mayor, Kellar thanked his fellow council members – “none of us is a success by ourselves” – and ticked off several highlights of his year in office.

Among them, he said: Bringing the Whitaker-Bermite cleanup to the “wrap-up stages;” the fact that, at the proposed Cemex mining site in Soledad Canyon, “they’re not mining out there;” and the pending new sheriff’s station, which he hopes will be completed by 2019.

Kellar was on the receiving end of numerous tributes, including proclamations of thanks from state Sen. Scott Wilk (Wilk’s first proclamation as a senator), and Acosta (his first proclamation as an Assemblyman).

“I’ll close by making a flat statement,” Kellar said, addressing the packed house in the City Hall Council Chambers, “I love this city and everybody in it.”

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