News - December 14, 2011

Keith steps into spotlight as Menlo Park mayor

• Rich Cline reflects on two years in office.

by Sandy Brundage

The Dec. 6 council meeting sparked no debate about who would succeed Rich Cline. Nominated by Kelly Fergusson, Kirsten Keith found herself facing zero opposition for taking over as mayor. Colleague Peter Ohtaki then likewise breezed into the vice mayor's slot after Mr. Cline offered him up for consideration.

Ms. Keith and Mr. Ohtaki, as the newest members of the council, were first in line for those positions since the council's non-binding policy states that those who have yet to hold the offices take priority.

Mayor Keith thanked everyone from her extended family watching in the audience to city staff to Menlo Park's residents before Vice Mayor Ohtaki gave his own brief thanks. The council moved on to recognizing Mr. Cline's two years of service as mayor, presenting him with a proclamation that recognized his dedication to transparent government and fiscal responsibility, and his "quirky sense of humor."

Those applauding Mr. Cline included State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, as well as representatives for Assemblymen Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park.

"Anyone who has spent two years working on high-speed rail at the local level deserves a lifetime achievement award," Sen. Simitian quipped.

Mr. Cline compared living in Menlo Park to winning the lottery, saying he was honored to have served as mayor. He thanked staff for "making me and the council look smarter," and commented that the city was going to keep moving forward under the new leadership.

He took a few moments to reflect on how it felt to finally lay the gavel down, telling the Almanac that he'd had two primary goals for his second term: shorter meetings as well as trying "to get the city more about getting projects completed and less about meeting to discuss it," and squashing political sniping at meetings so that everyone felt free to air their opinions in a responsible, mature manner.

"You can really control the tenor as mayor — even in a rotational city council," Mr. Cline reflected. "I think we did cut meetings down dramatically and we have a pretty good list of accomplishments with a few more big ones to come."

He praised his successor. "Kirsten is great and she will do a wonderful job as mayor. She will render me obsolete by Wednesday of next week."


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