Arline LaMear was sworn in on Monday night as the mayor of Astoria, christening a new era of leadership at City Hall.
The 75-year-old former librarian at the Columbia River Maritime Museum took the oath of office from former Mayor Willis Van Dusen before an overflow crowd. Van Dusen, a Pepsi distributor who guided the city for 24 years and was the longest-serving mayor, hugged LaMear when the transition was complete.
“I would just like to say `thank you’ to the citizens of Astoria,” the new mayor said. “This is such a wonderful community, and I am both honored and humbled to be the mayor. And I hope I will do the job that all of you expect of me.
“I also hope that those of you who did not support my candidacy will work with me. I’m certainly willing to do that. And I hope that we can all work cooperatively because we all want the best for this community.”
In November, LaMear defeated Larry Taylor, a manager at Intel and a nonprofit leader. She has served on the City Council since 2008, and has made the renovation of the Astoria Public Library her priority.
LaMear recognized Van Dusen for his service to the city, both as mayor and for his previous six years on the council, and said he had mentored her and others.
“It is a little daunting after someone has been in the office for 24 years, but I’m excited about it. I’m excited about our new council, and look forward to all kinds of progress in the city,” she said afterward.
Zetty Nemlowill, the marketing director at Astoria Co-op Grocery, and Cindy Price, a writer and community volunteer, were sworn in Monday night by LaMear as new city councilors after winning elections in November.
For the first time in city history, a majority on the City Council are women. State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, sent the trio flowers to mark the occasion and the bouquets were on display on the council dais.
“I think Astoria is an old city. But I think that it’s just one way that we can prove that we are capable of evolving and really excelling into the future,” Nemlowill said of the distinction.
While the political and ideological direction of the new council will reveal itself over time, the first hiccup happened Monday night. Nemlowill nominated Councilor Russ Warr as council president, who presides when the mayor is absent. But her motion did not receive a second and died. Price then nominated Councilor Drew Herzig, but her motion also died for lack of a second.
Zemlowill nominated Warr again, and, this time, LaMear seconded the motion. The council voted unanimously to select Warr as president. Warr had been excused from the meeting and was not in attendance.
On a night that consisted mostly of ceremony — LaMear also administered the oath of office to Brad Johnston, the police chief and assistant city manager — the council took care of several items.
The City Council authorized bids for the renovation of the Astoria Senior Center. The city had received a $1.5 million community development block grant and the senior center’s patrons pledged another $95,000 for the work, but the council decided last June to delay bidding, hoping to attract lower bids during the slower construction months during the winter.
City Manager Brett Estes told the council that bids would likely be due in late February and that a construction contract could come back before the council in March. Construction could start in March and the renovation could be completed by August.
The council also agreed to award a $9,230 contract to Weatherguard Inc. for a new roof on Shively Hall, the event facility overseen by the parks and recreation department. The existing roof is leaking and causing damage to the hall.
And the council adopted a resolution establishing a library renovation fund for improvements to the library. The council accepted a $7,400 donation from the estate of Ruth Jensen, the late teacher and librarian, to furnish the children’s room in a renovated library and to act as possible seed money for other private contributions.
Herzig sought assurances from Estes that the new library renovation fund would not commit the city to renovating the library at a specific location. Some have questioned, for example, whether the library should be expanded into the decaying Waldorf Hotel.
“So the word `renovation’ does not commit us to any plan or any location?” Herzig asked.
Estes explained that it was purely a term given to the fund for the collection of donations.