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Council says goodbye to Mayor Schroeder; hello to Mayor Stark

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

In another case of a festive event forever altered by the coronavirus, the council said goodbye to longtime member, and current Mayor Larry Schroeder, and handed the mayor’s gavel over to Jennifer Stark during the Claremont City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

Also on the agenda was the swearing in of two members, Corey Calaycay for another term, and for new city Councilmember Sal Medina.

Under ordinary circumstances, the council chamber would have been filled with the friends, family and supporters of Mr. Schroeder, Ms. Stark, Mr. Calaycay and Mr. Medina. But this time a Zoom meeting would have to do, which by no means dampened the spirits of those involved.

Following ceremonial items, the session began with City Clerk Shelley Desautels certifying the November 3 election, which was the first conducted in the city since Claremont was divided into districts.

During public comment, former Mayor Joe Lyons thanked all eight candidates who ran for council and commended everyone for conducting positive campaigns. He then singled out the two winners for recognition. “You will have difficult times ahead but certainly I think both of you are qualified to take on those challenges, and hopefully be able to provide meaningful solutions during these trying times.”

Claremont resident Russ Binder called to thank Mr. Schroeder for his many years of service, which included 12 years on council and two years on the Community Services Commission.

Mayor Schroeder opened his comments by wishing his daughter a happy birthday, and thanked his wife Laurie Schroeder for “her support and patience dealing with me for the last 12 years on the Claremont City Council, as well as the time I spent as a commissioner,” he said. “All I can say is as soon as we can, we will travel again.”

He made a point of thanking the city’s staff for their hard work during a time when fewer people were asked to do more work while foregoing increases in compensation.

He also thanked his supporters who placed their trust in him, declaring, “I hope I have done a good job.”

“Thank you to my fellow councilmembers for their collaboration and respect. I enjoyed working with each of you and wish you the best in the future.”

He said he wanted to leave the city and his colleagues with three thoughts. First, he implored the public to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and to “do all you can to slow the outbreak.” Next, he affirmed his support for the Claremont Police Department at its current level of staffing. Third, he affirmed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You can support the police department and Black Lives Matter,” Mayor Schroeder said.

Finally, he encouraged anyone who has an interest in local politics to get involved by running for city council, applying to be a commissioner or volunteering at one of the community’s many local organizations.

“In many ways I will miss being a city councilmember, but I will continue to enjoy being a resident of the city of Claremont,” Mayor Schroeder said.

The first councilmember to thank Mayor Schroeder was Mr. Calaycay, who has served with the mayor for his entire 12 years on council.

“Of all my colleagues there were two I served with the longest—Sam Pedroza and Larry. It was so sad to see Sam go two years ago, and now sad to see Larry leave the council, but at the same time I am happy for you because I know you have some great plans, once we get through COVID, to do some traveling with your wife and enjoy her company,” Mr. Calaycay said, adding, “People need to know the value you brought to this council; your background as a municipal finance director was instrumental and very important on our council.”

Among the many people who called in to thank the mayor were Congresswoman Judy Chu and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis.

Next on the agenda was the administration of the oath of office to newly elected members Mr. Calaycay and Mr. Medina.

With the election certified and the mayor stepping aside, the next official act was to appoint Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Stark as the city’s next mayor. Jed Leano was then selected to be mayor pro tem.

In her remarks, Mayor Stark acknowledged the tremendously difficult time that is the reality of 2020, in Claremont, nationwide and across the globe.

“While partisan fires burn all around us at the state and national level, Claremont City Council is non-partisan. It is our privilege and our responsibility to listen to everyone, to see beyond the surface of issues, and to create effective local responses,” Mayor Stark said.

She promised that the council will advocate for businesses damaged by stay-at-home orders, and voiced support “for those of us mourning the loss of loved ones, for our exhausted medical community and essential workers.”

Mayor Stark highlighted two big challenges facing the city that are not related to the pandemic—notably tackling the housing element and hiring a new city manager, while advocating for federal and state funds.

“It is indeed an honor to serve as mayor. I take this seat with humility and sincerity, and I’m excited to help set a tone of accessibility, efficiency and friendliness. I promise that I will be consistent in my willingness to take action on every challenge ahead of us, in the spirit of partnership and in the best interest of our community,” Mayor Stark said.

“At 7:35 p.m., I said the words not spoken at a Claremont City Council meeting in 10 years: ‘Thank you, Madame Mayor,’” Councilmember Jed Leano proclaimed on social media Tuesday night. The post elicited 293 offers of congratulations to the new mayor.

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