Three new faces elected to council
Willows voters made it clear Tuesday that change is what they wanted at City Hall.
With three new faces on the City Council next year, it means voters weren't afraid to shakes things up.
"I don't see this as a victory to me," said Bill Spears, who garnered nearly 24 percent of the vote in a field of seven candidates. "I see this as a victory for the city."
Spears, Larry Domenighini and Lawrence Mello said early in their campaigns that better communication between the council and the public was desperately needed, and all three believe that is what gave them the edge over two once popular council members.
Mayor Vince Holvik and Councilman Gary Hansen, who were defeated in Tuesday's election, took incredible heat over decisions the City Council made during extremely tough budget times.
The City Council was also accused of not involving the public in practical discussions regarding city finances and turning away suggestions for alternatives.
One of the most unpopular decisions was not renewing Spears as chief of police, when his contract is up at the end of the year.
"It is a decision I stand behind," said Hansen, who narrowly missed retaining his seat by a handful of votes. "If I had to do it over again, I would not change that decision."
Spears is the first sitting chief of police to be elected to the Willows City Council — positions he can't hold simultaneously.
His first duty, he said, is to see the Police Department makes a smooth transition, even though he doesn't know what the City Council has planned for the department after he leaves.
The loss of several officers in the past few years has taken a tremendous toll, he said, and replacing them with Proposition 30 and COPS grant funding is a painstakingly slow process.
As for the election, Spears said he is humbled by the amount of support the community has given to him and his family.
As he promised during the campaign, he is adamant that the public will be included in all budget discussions.
"We need to knock down that wall of closed-doors on matters that are not mandated by law to be closed," Spears said. "We need to do the right thing now and not wait for a law ordering us to do the right thing."
Spears hopes to establish office hours at city hall, where the public can come to him to express their opinions.
It's a similar tactic he has taken as chief of police.
"I have always listened to people," he said. "I have not always agreed with everything. I understand responsible people will have differences of opinion. But I will always listen."
Spears will join Domenighini and Mello on the dais.
Domenighini and Mello are scheduled to be sworn in on Nov. 27.
Spears plans to stay on the job until Dec. 30 and hopes to be sworn in at the beginning of the year.
Willows City Manager Steve Holsinger said no ordinance requires Spears to take office within a certain amount of time after the election, but that Spears will forfeit his right to be involved in the council's reorganization in December.
It is in December that the council selects a mayor and vice-mayor, and makes committee assignments.
"There has never been a situation like this in California," Holsinger said.
Domenighini, who received the second highest support from the community in Tuesday's election, will also leave a big hole, when he leaves the Willows Planning Commission, city officials said.
The City Council will likely make an appointment to fill the remainder of his term after the first of the year, Holsinger said.
"Larry is our go-to guy," Commissioner Kerri Warren said Wednesday. "He was on the Planning Commission a long time and he was someone all the newbies turned to for information. He will be missed."
Warren said she was excited that Domenighini was elected to the council and believes he will be a tremendous asset in governing the city.
"He has a wealth of knowledge," she said.
Domenighini said Wednesday he was grateful for the support in Tuesday's election, and said plans to go to work immediately getting to know each city department.
"I'm going to do my homework," he said. "I'm not a micro-manager by any means, but I want to know what is going on in each department and find out what I can do to help."
Mello is equally optimistic about taking on a new role in city government.
He understands the primary role of the City Council is to provide and maintain public infrastructure, services and safety, but he said he is determined not to forget what he promised about tackling the small stuff.
Mello hopes to immediately initiate a better working relationship between City Hall and local businesses, and look at ways to increase revenue for the city by working on a plan to bring business off Interstate-5.
"We have to take a proactive approach," he said. "That is the big thing,"
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.