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Council, minus Phipps, takes oaths of office
The thrill of victory was replaced by the sorrow over the death of Councilman Rob Phipps during Thursday's swearing-in ceremony of two councilmen.

Phipps, elected to a four-year term on the Ceres City Council on Nov. 6, was to be sworn in last week. However, the 44-year-old died unexpectedly on Sunday, Dec. 2. A large bouquet of white flowers was placed at his spot on the dais where 10 days prior he cast his last votes as a councilman.

Oaths of office were administered to Anthony Cannella as mayor, Guillermo Ochoa as councilman, and Harry Herbert as city treasurer.

"We were all shocked and saddened at his premature death," said Cannella, "and his passing has changed the tone for tonight's meeting, obviously. What should be a joyous occasion will now be just a somber meeting where we conduct our city business."

The mayor paused with emotion.

"Tonight Rob is part of this meeting; not physically but in our hearts."

A slide show was shown on video screens. Playing to soft music were photos of Phipps at the recent ground breaking of the Community Center and the dedications of new parks. Other scenes showed him campaigning at the Ceres Flea Market.

The mayor then presented Phipps' certificate of election to his sole surviving brother, Mike Phipps. He then offered a hug to Gail Lambert, Phipps' companion.

Cannella's first act as mayor was selecting Chris Vierra as vice mayor. Phipps had served as vice mayor for the past two years. Cannella said the decision was based on Vierra having the greatest longevity. The next vice mayor will be selected in two years.

Honored at the event were Brenda Scudder Herbert, who left her post as city clerk; and Albert Avila, the outgoing city treasurer.

Born and raised in Ceres, Herbert served as city clerk in 1994. She has served as an officer in the Soroptimist International of Ceres, Ceres Chamber of Commerce board, Ceres Street Faire Committee, Measure H and Measure J committees and Ceres Concerts in the Parks Committee.

"The City Clerk position is a very difficult position and she's done an outstanding job and we're really going to miss her," said Cannella.

Herbert was offered a plaque and accolodes from state officials.

Herbert is a member of Rep. Dennis Cardoza's Modesto office staff.

"Thankfully my husband's still going to be here otherwise I would miss everyone greatly," she told the council.

Avila, a Ceres resident since 1991, is a certified public accountant and since 2004 has been the finance director for the city of Oakdale. He was appointed as city treasurer in Ceres since December 2002 and was elected in 2003. Avila has served as treasurer for the Ceres Lions Club, Ceres Chamber of Commerce, Ceres High School Band, and the Ceres Street Faire Committee.

"It's been an honor to serve as the city treasurer for five years," said Avila. "I really love the city of Ceres. Although I work somewhere else, I love it here."