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Council will choose one of its own to become mayor
The vacancy in the office of mayor created by the resignation of Anthony Cannella who became a state senator on Monday, will be filled by a member of the council. The Ceres City Council met in a special Tuesday evening meeting and decided to make an appointment on Jan. 3.

Cannella resigned as mayor of Ceres on Monday to pick up his new assignment: Representing the 12th state Senate District in Sacramento.

Cannella, 41, took the oath of office on the floor of the Senate as family members watched on, among them his father, former state Assemblyman Sal Cannella, his mother, Donna, wife Julie and three children, Caleb, Mackay and Elise.

Facing Cannella and other lawmakers is the huge task of paring down a $6 billion mid-year state budget deficit. With Jerry Brown coming into power next month, the state will also be tackling an anticipated $19 billion deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Cannella campaigned on a theme of restoring fiscal sanity to Sacramento. On Nov. 2 he defeated Democrat Anna Caballero to represent the district, which covers part or all of Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Monterey and San Benito counties.

The council had three options to consider to fill Cannella's unexpired mayoral term. The first option was to call a special election, which would carry a cost of between $62,000 to $81,000; the second option was to appoint someone outside of the council, such as a former mayor to serve out Cannella's term, thereby avoiding the three appointees dilemma. The third option was to appoint an existing council member to the seat - but not without its problems. The council decided to go with the option, however.

Appointing a mayor from the current four members would leave a council vacancy which the council is forbidden from filling by appointment. The council vacancy would have to be filled by an election, special or regular. City Attorney Michael Lyions explained that California Government Code section 36512(c)(1) states that a city council cannot have a majority of appointed members. Councilman Bret Durossette is an appointee who was tapped to fill the unexpired term of Rob Phipps who died in December 2007. The new mayor would be considered an appointee, even if previously elected to a council seat.

City Attorney Mike Lyions suggested that elevating Durossette to mayor would eliminate the issue of having too many appointees. But Durossette has stated that he is not interested in the job since he's only been on the council since late 2007.

Vice Mayor Ken Lane, who is acting mayor, expressed no interest in being mayor nor did Durossette and Guillermo Ochoa.

Councilman Chris Vierra, who is considered to be the one to become mayor - he has served the longest, since 2003, and is the only one who wants the job - argued against a special election to fill the mayor's seat. Vierra said calling a special election in June at a cost of approximately $80,000 to choose a mayor to sit until the general election in November would be a "grave waste of the taxpayers money."

Vierra also argued against appointing from outside the council.

"We just had a city manager that left, the mayor was right behind him, we're looking at a $2 million plus budget deficit and it's my recommendation that we fulfill within this group," said Vierra. "We've been dealing with the bargaining units for some six years and gone through the rocky times."

Durossette agreed, saying a newcomer mayor "could stall us in the things we're doing."

Lane agreed, saying it was "an easy choice."

If the council picks Vierra to succeed Cannella on Jan. 3, the council has 60 days to deal with Vierra's unexpired council term. New legislation passed in July and taking effect on Jan. 1 would allow the city to take up to 60 days to fill a council seat or call an election. Lyions said that the city would then miss the March and June election deadlines, but could put the matter to the November 2011 election to avoid special election costs.

Operating a four-member council for nearly a year puts the panel at risk of deadlocking in 2-2 ties as well as possibly making it harder to meet with a quorum. Durossette said the council would have to "really work our tails off ... and make sure we are here on a regular basis."

Other local lawmakers who took take oaths Monday include newly re-elected state Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, who handily held onto his 26th Assembly district over Democrat challenger Tim Weintz. His brother, Tom Berryhill, moved up from the state Assembly to the state Senate in the 14th district. Berryhill, first elected to the state Assembly in 2006, defeated Democratic candidate Larry Johnson of Clovis.