Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hoffmeister named Concord mayor

CONCORD — It was in the 1990s that the Concord City Council decided to rotate mayors every year, each member taking a turn.

But on Monday night, Laura Hoffmeister became Concord mayor even though she wasn't next in line.

Councilwoman Helen Allen was vice mayor in 2008, thus supposed to take the top spot. But a few months ago, Councilman Bill Shinn said he'd like to remain mayor for another year, for continuity's sake in the high-stakes Concord Naval Weapons Station planning.

Allen said Tuesday that it wasn't fair that Shinn serve as mayor two years in a row. But at the same time, she was willing to step aside, she said, and asked Hoffmeister two months ago if she would like to be mayor. Hoffmeister said yes.

"I feel like enough people know me — I've been mayor three times before," Allen said. "And I don't want to belittle it and say that being mayor isn't important, but I don't want to be a hog."

This year will be Hoffmeister's third stint as Concord mayor. She was mayor in 2001 and 2005 and has been on the council since 1997.

"I think it'll work out fine," Allen said Monday. "The rotation works because it gives everyone a chance to represent the city. As long as we keep moving from person to person, it works fine."

Guy Bjerke was named vice mayor.

On Monday, Shinn was showered with gifts and accolades as colleagues heralded his first and only turn as Concord mayor. "Bill set the bar very high," AdvertisementHoffmeister said, calling his time at the helm an example of "steady leadership."

Planning uses for the weapons station's 5,028 acres began in earnest during Shinn's tenure. That, council members said, would be enough of a challenge on its own.

But in 2008, the city staff also lost a record number of directors and department heads, including the city manager and assistant city manager. Some retired, others left for other jobs. Under Shinn, the council hired a new city manager, who then picked a new assistant city manager and a human resources director. Other positions were filled as well.

Also in 2008, the city hired a record-breaking 17 new police officers and approved long-sought raises for the police department. Shinn, a retired sheriff's commander, pushed for both of those things. Bjerke said Shinn proved accessible, an example being Shinn's idea to hold formal office hours every month — something no other council member has done.

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