San Mateo City Council calls for applicants to fill vacant seat 

San Mateo is accepting applications of prospective candidates to fill the City Council seat vacated by Robert Ross, who resigned this month due to health issues.

Because the City Charter requires the council to appoint a successor within 30 days of Ross’ resignation, the governing body has set Jan. 20 as the deadline for applying, and will aim to appoint a candidate to the seat following the Jan. 26 meeting. The appointee will be sworn in during the Feb. 2 council meeting.

While it was initially reported that the appointee would serve out the remainder of Ross’ term, which ends in 2017, Councilman David Lim explained that the new member would take over only through Dec. 7.

In the Nov. 3 general election, voters will elect a candidate to fill the final two years that Ross would have served.

During a special study session, Lim said he advocated appointing a retired council member as a “placeholder” to serve out the 2015 term, with a promise that the appointee wouldn’t run in the November election. This would prevent the member from gaining an unfair advantage in the election, Lim said.

Although the council voted to hold a public application process instead of acting on Lim’s suggestion, the councilman noted that the board could still choose an applicant who meets the criteria he suggested.

Mayor Maureen Freschet noted, however, that even if an appointee pledged to act as a placeholder and not run for election in November, the city could not legally hold the appointee to that promise.

The mayor added that while several people who are widely believed to be likely candidates in the November election have expressed an interest in the appointment, no one has come forward to express interest in serving only in 2015 without seeking election to the remaining two-year term.

Lim said the council had considered holding public interviews, but ultimately decided that each candidate would instead provide a 10-minute oral presentation to the council on Jan. 26.

While official city communications did not disclose the nature of Ross’ health issues, Lim said the former councilman has not hidden the fact that he recently had two heart surgeries, in 2013 and 2014. According to Lim, Ross resigned in order to get the rest he needs, but he is not currently facing additional health risks.

Ross, who served one term as mayor, received praise from Lim, who said, “We came on the City Council together, asked a lot of hard questions together and weren’t satisfied with the status quo.”

Lim added that Ross was known for being a good listener, especially where his constituents were concerned. The mayor agreed with that sentiment, saying that Ross was always accessible and worked tirelessly during his years on the council.

“One of the things I always loved about Robert is that he didn’t have an agenda, other than being there for the citizens of San Mateo,” the mayor noted. “He was very independent, and beholden to nobody.”

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