By Dave Schwab
Now that grassroots City Council candidate Sherri Lightner has eeked out a narrow, hard-fought victory over opponent Phil Thalheimer, it's time for termed-out, 1st District Councilman Scott Peters to pass on the baton of leadership.
"We had our final exam and we passed," Lightner said Friday. "Now we have the opportunity to do the real work and move forward talking to people in the community."
Lightner is one of four new members - including Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria and Carl DeMaio - on the eight-member City Council. The council is now cleaved along partisan lines with six Democrats and two Republicans under Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders.
The city's dire financial situation and deeper budget cuts announced by Sanders last week will undoubtedly be one of Lightner and her new colleagues' first orders of business.
"We're going to be having a briefing meeting and I'm looking forward to what the independent budget analyst thinks," the new 1st District councilwoman said. "Several changes may be on the way, including closing the library in south University City and doing away with emergency medical services at Station 9 in La Jolla Shores."
Lightner will be sworn in as councilwoman Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. and will sit in on her first council session at 2 p.m. that day.
She said she hasn't had time to select her staff yet. "I have talked to a couple of council offices to find out how they set up their offices," she said.
Lightner and her supporters have developed a tentative 100-day plan for transitioning into her council seat.
"I'll be meeting with my core group next week to talk about which things will be the ones we'll get started on, and which will be longer-term," she said.
No matter how her priorities ultimately turn out, Lightner intends to do more public outreach. "I plan on working with the communities, listening to the communities," she said.
Lightner said she'll adopt a similar cooperative attitude with the other seven members on the City Council.
"We all need to be working with the mayor," she said. "We have some serious issues and we can't be fighting. One good way to get away from that is to stop talking about partisanship."
Undaunted by his second election defeat (he lost to Peters four years ago) Thalheimer, a Republican, said he was a victim of bad timing.
"The fact we came as close as we did was in some respects remarkable," he said. "What happened was we were swamped by a national event. There are certain things you have no control over. I think, 'different day, different outcome.'"
Nonetheless, Thalheimer said he had a good time, met a lot of people and learned a lot. He added his support was also unbelievable. "I had 70 or 80 people, all volunteers, walking the streets for me," he said. "They're feeling worse than I am."
Thalheimer wishes the new council well.
"They're certainly going to have their hands full," he said.
If you go
Sherri Lightner will talk to the La Jolla Democratic Club from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday at the La Jolla Public Library. Open to the public.