City Council members on rotation of mayor

Marsha McLean is sworn in as the next mayor of Santa Clarita at City Hall Tuesday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The city of Santa Clarita has kept its appointment process for mayor among the elected council members since its establishment in 1987, resulting in a small pool of leaders often rotating multiple times. With the same faces returning to the seat, does it differ depending on who gets to hold the gavel?

Members of the City Council believe so, saying each has their own area of expertise to bring to the table.

“We all prioritize what is best for the city, but through our own histories, we will bring different perspectives to the city,” said Cameron Smyth, newly appointed mayor pro tem.

On Dec. 11, Marsha McLean began her fourth stint as mayor since joining the City Council in 2002. Her appointment was no easy feat, however, as it followed a heated debate over nominations during a special meeting. The event garnered a lot of attention from the public and prompted questions and debates on social media over whether the mayor should be directly elected, or if there should be a change in how the council is elected.

The topic comes as no surprise to the City Council, as it resurfaced during the recent election cycle. But Councilwoman Laurene Weste said she believes the “city manager” form of government works for Santa Clarita.

“We are a general law city,” she said. “We are not run by the mayor; we are run by the city manager and we do not usurp that operation. It’s different and it’s the most effective form of government. It works for Santa Clarita and helps keep the cost of government down.”

City Council members choose the next mayor from among themselves every December, often close to the date the city was founded — Dec. 15. Under this format, the mayor acts similar to a board chairperson.

“While there’s no legislative authority, there’s still a different role the mayor has than the rest of the council members,” said Smyth.

The mayor’s duties include presiding over council meetings, representing the majority of the city’s policies after votes have been taken, and serving on the city’s budget committee and the sanitation district board.

With the mayor’s position serving as “a leader among equals,” as said in the City Council’s norms and procedures, what sets them apart are their different focuses, said McLean.

“Each one of us has an area or areas that we are most interested in bringing to the title of mayor,” she said.

McLean is widely known for focusing on transportation and the environment. Her passions have helped her serve on other boards representing Santa Clarita, such as the Los Angeles County Division of the League of California Cities and the Transportation Policy Committee of the Southern California Association of Governments. Her work has helped enhance regional transportation and local ridership.

Among other work she is looking forward to is the Vista Canyon development’s Transit Center and Metrolink Station. She added that other areas she is looking to focus on are business, economic development and open space.

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